NEA Literature Fellowships

Atsuro Riley

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(2013 - Poetry)




A last rock-skip hurlstorm (crazing river-glass)
the closest they ever were.



In right lockstitch
snared and split some fire-supper cooked on sticks.



By dawn the older brother took to chucking
what bottle-frags he could find and crud-oysters across.
The (high-pitched) younger blacked our waters


with a yowl.



Lord the sound such as rose from him
  carried so—
into us. Clings.



Hadn't they clung tooth and claw to branch and bark.
—Came a man (and truck) to take them off.



Dieseled those boys off
some say somewheres upcountry,




Where it was they landed (why) nobody not them knows.



No body not them knows
just how they humped and grubbled home
what road they'd graved what woods criss-crossed
which creeks which trains they'd hopped who helped.



Came safe home sure        but blank as houses.
Came safe home       —as him  —and him.


—as (evermore) not them.

(first published in POETRY, April 2011)

Atsuro Riley is the author of Romey's Order (University of Chicago Press, 2010), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, The Believer Poetry Award, and the Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress.

His work has been honored with the Whiting Writers' Award, the Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship, the Pushcart Prize, and the Wood Prize given by Poetry magazine. Brought up in the South Carolina lowcountry, Riley lives in San Francisco.

Author's Statement

I'm most grateful for this miraculous goad and flint. I feel its emboldening effects already.