Jake Adam York

Colorado poet, writer, and editor Jake Adam York (1972-2012) was represented on this site and his information has been left up as testimonial to his life and work.

Jake Adam York

Walt Whitman in Alabama

Maybe on his way to Gadsden ,

Queen City of the Coosa ,

to speak with the pilots and inland sailors,

to cross the fords Jackson ran with blood

or meet the mayor who

bought the ladies’ favors with river quartz,

maybe east from some trip west to see

or returning north from New Orleans

or just lost in those years after The War

as legend has it, after the bannings,

when he’d grown tired of puffs and plates,

after he’d grown the beard and begun

to catch things there he had to walk off

or sing unwritten, maybe when the open road

opened on mockingbirds two and two —

no one knows, though the stories have him here

recapturing Attalla, shaking poems from his hair

on the steps of local churches. Maybe

it was the end of many letters, the last

of hospital days, another sleight

to make his hand come alive

when he couldn’t bring some Southron home.

I see him there remembering his poems,

his back to the door, singing

out to the garden of the world,

the tropical spring of pine and jasmine,

how wondrous it was the pent-up river

washed to green their farms, the creeks swole

with mountain dew to sprout the corn,

herbage of poke and collard,

spinach and bean, to wash the roots

of every leaf to come. But more

I wonder what he did not say,

whether the doors were closed on the room

where none thought Jesus ever naked,

whether he went down Gadsden ’s Broad

to the bluff where a hundred years thence

someone fabled a child lost from the arms

of his hispanic mother and almost saved

by a cop who brought from his pocket

a shirt’s worth of proof before the woman

vanished with her English, before the psychics

started rowing down the channel

to listen for the baby’s dreams — all years after

the whorehouses, the fires, Reconstruction

and true religion came, after Whitman said his piece

and left the county to its mayors,

its wars and local dramas, Broad Street

and its theatres to opening and closing

and being torn down to photograph and rumor

where Vaudeville variety traveled

in those years before the world became real

and history stilled, before the damns stalled

the yearly flood that washed the roots

and made new fields from catfish and shit

and the mountain dead, before

the sun in the tassels was wormed to shine,

before shine dried into the hills

with the snakes, the poetry, the legend.

I imagine him here in the different city,

bathing in the yellow light as the river slips

beneath the bridge, flickering like a candle

or like the body or like the bodies

lit up with gasoline and beer, tremble of taillights,

while the statue of the Civil War heroine

points fingerless down Broad, down the stream

of headlamps and embers of burning weed,

a congregation in which his secrets and his song

would be unwelcome, though he slake

some secret thirsts, his orotund voice

tune our ears to the river’s whisper,

a baby cradled in branches

deep beneath the bridge.

Its ribs filter the Coosa ’s brown.

Its arms raise the crops.

And every night it whispers the town

in some new forgotten tongue.