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Achilles in Jasper, Texas

By Jeffrey Thomson

I know this: a man walked home drunk
along the corduroy of pines
in east Texas, the bronze duff and

the dust and the late light that fell
on him.  Three men gave him a lift

that afternoon and raised him
with their fists and lowered
him with their nigger this and

nigger that and after a while,
when all the fun they could have

with him leaked out into
the ruts of a logging cut,
they tied him to the boat

hitch of their truck and pulled
away.  I know he kept his head up

awhile because his elbows were
ground to the bone; I know enough
was finally enough, and his head

left his body behind,
but I don’t know what to do

with this, America, this rage
like Achilles twitching
Hector behind his chariot

for 12 days until even
the gods were ashamed.

Added: Wednesday, July 16, 2014  /  Thomson's poem took First Place in the Split This Rock 2008 Poetry Contest. Special thanks to the contest judge, Kyle G. Dargan, and to Mary Morris and James Honaberger for their role as first readers.

Jeffrey Thomson is the author of four books of poems, including Birdwatching in Wartime, winner of both the 2010 Maine Book Award and the 2011 ASLE Award in Environmental Creative Writing.  Birdwatching in Wartime is currently being translated into Spanish and Russian. He has three books forthcoming in the next three years: a memoir, Fragile; his translations of The Complete Poems of Catullus; and a new collection of poems, The Belfast Notebooks. In 2012 he was the Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Poetry Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, and in 2015 he will be the Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown Fellow at Brown University and the C.V. Starr Center at Washington College.  He is currently professor of creative writing at the University of Maine Farmington.

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