Sample Poem – “Caney Dencottle”

If you can’t learn from history—save yourself a few years, circle back, and burn your own barn.
— A Proverb from the Storms

I catch the winter swan-jazzed
downstream with its swanky snow
flying way on south, the lemon
trees shake icicles from sunlight.

A patrol car keeps sliding
inside my mirror. I hear Charlie
Parker jangling Shreveport up
through the long hauling train.

The music gets pasted on skin.
Feel the harmonica roll off
like the squabble of two brats
tasting the last cold slice of pie.


(From the new book, Fiddling at Midnight’s Farmhouse, by Clyde Kessler, poet.)

Sample Poem – “Gigging”

We were gigging fish in the marsh near Winktown.
You jabbed a suckerfish, and its eyes fought the moonrise
and kept as much of the light as a dead fish can hold.
There was a yellow, silver glowing that wrought the scales
and some of them fell off like jewels flaking into your coat.

The gig’s barbs held the glow for five nights.
And the handle of the gig worked its dark wood
into the stars. So then you said half of the constellations
were already gone, but teased us with something like heaven,
shining across their disappearances much too long ago
for any of our talking to make sense.
I told you we should just get on fishing,
and that took us inside the sunrise.

(From the new book, Fiddling at Midnight’s Farmhouse, by Clyde Kessler, poet.)

Fiddling at Midnight’s Farmhouse

Fifteen years in the making, Fiddling at Midnight’s Farmhouse continues the adventures of a few characters in poems I included in Dancing at Big Vein, a small book published by Pocahontas Press in 1987. The poems are patterned a little like the poems in Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology.

All the poems are yarns, tall tales, ghost stories, retellings of family secrets, and even a few riddles of several families of characters–mostly fiddlers, waifs, workers, and lost souls. They live at or near a community I call Hackle Creek–not the creek in Missouri that shares the same name. As such, they are mostly fictional, with the exception of the introductory poem, “Buren Clyde Pendleton.” This poem is a tribute to my maternal grandfather who died in 1939 when my mother was six-years-old (fourteen years before I was born.) My aunt Violet said it was very accurate about his life and his joy in playing fiddle and calling barn dances.

My mom’s family lived on Jack’s Creek near Woolwine in Patrick County, Virginia. This place is the model of what I call Hackle Creek. I am not sure how wild or tame my Hackle Creek is; some of the characters who live there know, and a few deny they know.


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