Michael Chitwood

Good Work


To moonlight
is to work an extra job,
my father explained.

At the end of the day
sometimes he’d loosen his tie
and walk back to the loading dock
and sit with one or two of the smokers.
The moon’s pale coin
was already in the late afternoon sky.
It was almost time
to go home.  Almost.
The wood bench
was worn smooth with this sitting.
He was going to go home,
just not yet.


River Bend Subdivision


Before all these houses and their shrubs,
at the end of the stretch of hardwoods,
there was a stand of white pines
edging the big bottom field by the river.
I would save going there,
wait until the morning had warmed a little,
until the sun had worked all the way to the forest floor,
until the frost-latch on the dead leaves,
those brown oak leaves still clinging,
had released and the ones that were going to fall that day
had fallen.
Then I’d walk to the chapel of the pines,
carpeted with years of the blonde needles
that silenced my walking.
Their trunks were grey, green, blue, lichen-pocked,
or maybe it was a moss.
There were long white tear streaks of resin
from the knot holes.
At the base of a few trunks were swirled nests
that looked like something had slept there.
I would stand silent in that vestibule
to the flat, corn-growing bottom land,
the workland of corn planting and corn cutting,
that earning, feeding land
outside the shade of the quiet, quiet trees
in the river’s bend.


Fixing It


The Happy Handyman’s van
has just come down my street.

It’s easy to be happy
when you have ladders in your roof rack.

It’s easy to be happy
when you have chalk guns and putty knives,

when you have pliers
with snouts like gars.

It’s easy to be happy
when your work boots are burnished

and your cuffs are rolled
and your clipboard is aflutter with work orders.

But here, in this house,
the doors of perception are swollen

and must be shouldered open.
Here, the windows of opportunity are stuck

here the ladder to paradise is a hard climb
and long haul, but my foot’s to the first rung.


The Municipality


has given him a shirt
with his name on it.

Such is the way
of municipalities

and now the named one
collects garbage,

a principal product
of municipalities

and how we later understand
them, all those shards

of historical pots
and cups give up

their ghosts of information.
Just now he drives his

garbage truck.  On the rearview
mirror an ornament he found

when the curbside
trees were collected

catches the morning
light with its sway.

        return to poetry

Michael Chitwood holds a BA from Emory and Henry and an MFA from The University of Virginia. He has worked as a medical and science writer and was assistant editor of Helix and the editor of Hypotenuse magazines.  He is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Pour-Mouth Jubilee from Tupelo Press, and two books of prose including  Hitting Below the Bible Belt: Baptist Voodoo, Blood Kin, Grandma’s Teeth and Other Stories. He has been a contributor to North Carolina’s WUNC affiliate of National Public Radio, and is now a full-time visiting lecturer at The University of North Carolina.