top of page


Trent Busch, native of rural West Virginia, lives in Georgia where he makes furniture. He has published in Best American Poetry, Poetry, Nation, Threepenny Review, North American Review, Kenyon Review, Hudson Review and Rattle. His recent books of poetry, not one bit of this is your fault (2019), Plumb Level and Square (2020) and West Virginians (2021) were published by His poem “Edges of Roads” was the 2016 First Place winner of the Margaret Reid Poetry Prize.



If my parents died I’d come

and live with her I said,

all the while eyeing the candy

case, the box of balloons open

on the counter, clipped peanuts,


my parents ordering sugar,

flour, cornflakes, salt fish

in a barrel just delivered, how I

was too big in her arms,

her perfume, overprice of rouge.


It was about being her boy when

she told it, her overflowing

heart blowzed out with imagery,

my lowered eyes and quick grin 

learned to hide embarrassment.


How strange we surely were

to those outside it, the colors 

and smells and listings

combined in that selfishness

for sweetness that united us,


sharing lies with no meanness,

our purses lined at no expense

to others, her husband finding

me the years after she died to

say that he had lost his sweetheart.


Had he had something else to do

that afternoon he would not have made

the cleaning rod for my .20 gauge,

whittled from basswood, straight as

arrows you could buy in town, pull

tapered and chamfered, the bottom

slot rounded for a polishing cloth.


He had a brother Lee Wires knew,

a grown daughter, but it was the wife

no one talked about, the ground not

turned for boys who must imagine

a lover, or her watching alone

at windows or sitting down to

a set table long ago cold.


Had he had something else to do

he might not have lingered, turning

his back almost as he handed

out a treasure, not interested

in gratitude, as if caught up

in the memory of a moment 

he thought he had forgotten.


Until now, I don’t remember

seeing him again clearly, shadows

that spoke and passed on store porch steps,

home of his gift and a token that

has stood silent in a gun not fired

in thirty years, hushing gossip,

closing that loud mouth like a bond.


My doctor says “healthy as

a horse” but not to me, to his

mother-in-law, a friend of my wife

who tells me what he said later.


A friend says “more Indian summer”

with days in the nineties at the end

of October when there’s been no

cool weather at all in Georgia.


As if words are tracks to definite

dens, as if the eye witness assumes

we see the same truck stalled on

the tracks just before derailment.


If it is natural to assume,

it is natural to ask, How

healthy is a horse? be it iron

or animal.  Maybe the best


we can do is risk position at

the expense of accuracy, whether

with ourselves or others, whether

with words or a doubtful day.


Looking back on it, he did not

know what he might have changed,

the usual accidents bringing

him here to the ordinary.


There were roses to be grown so

he grew them, there was dirt

to be moved so he moved it:

not just talking but getting done.


And if surely done himself, still

focused, the tree line outside

the window marching up the rising

field like soldiers disappearing.


Looking back on it, he saw the wind

taking him a direction

he would not go in repetition,

nor repeating go that way again.


Trees climbed the field, wind took the seeds

to ground that would accept them.  Let

that change, how they faded into

the land be his memorial.

bottom of page