NEA Literature Fellowships

Morri Creech

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(2007 - Poetry)


                        but now is Christ risen from the dead,
                        and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
Corinthians 15:20

          You've heard it before, I'm sure,
how the vault of heaven will strew its vital gold
a thousand pieces, bright as an angel's gown
          in the sweet, consummate hour
when all that the saints and prophets have foretold
comes true: the dead raised up, each mortal coil
          wound firm on the spindled bone,
and love at last unbounded by despair
          or the grave confines of soil.

          Rumors have often bred
in choir lofts, barber shops, on the front steps
of the local five and dime--how Pee Wee Gaskins,
          now locked in his cell, was said
to have killed at least a hundred, how the tulips
on the church lawn one morning were seen to blaze
          gold with the lucent skins
of five copperheads: till everyone agreed
          these were the final days.

          Or it seemed that summer
when floodtides razed the coast. You've read, of course,
that flesh is bare grain, like unto a seed,
          that no one knows the hour
of the Lord's design--but storm winds gathered force,
blasting the rain against the window glass,
          steeping the lawns to mud,
and even those of us who lived this far
          inland could hear the toss

          and whiplash of tall pines,
steeples plucked from churches, the hiss of downed wire.
Still, who could have predicted what we'd wake to?
          Not even Pee Wee Gaskins
brooding over his strangled girls could conjure
what lay in the light that gilded one soaked field,
          lay strewn beneath a rainbow
spanning the far pasture when the last rains
          hushed. It was not the world

          we hoped for. There they were,
the dead returned as we had never known them
in life, some kneeling against a fallen tree
          or face down in the water,
washed from the graves to constitute their kingdom;
and, sun-touched near the pasture's edge--O Death
          where is thy victory,
thy sting?--
an infant swaddled in coils of fence wire,
          snagged on a harrow's teeth.

Morri Creech was born in Moncks Corner, South Carolina and educated at Winthrop University (BA) and McNeese State University (MFA, MA). He has published two collections of poetry, Paper Cathedrals and, most recently, Field Knowledge, which won the 2005 Anthony Hecht Prize. His work has appeared in such journals and magazines as The New Criterion, The New Republic, Poetry, The Sewanee Review, Southwest Review, and The Hudson Review. He lives in Lake Charles, LA, with his daughter Hattie and teaches in the MFA Program at McNeese State University.

Photo courtesy of the author

Author's Statement

It is an honor to receive a fellowship from the NEA. It is often difficult for me to find time to write, and since I compose very slowly, piecing poems together can be a long and sometimes frustrating endeavor. With the fellowship's support, I have the opportunity to get away from work to devote more time solely to writing. I am simply delighted to have this opportunity to focus on my work. I'm grateful.