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 Cyberwit.net. 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.
THE CLEANING ROD
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.
EULOGY FOR BEN T. JOHNSON
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.