ISBN: 978-1-59948-499-0, 64 pages, $14
Release date: December 2014
Denton Loving is the editor of Seeking Its Own Level: an anthology of writings about water (MotesBooks 2014). He works at Lincoln Memorial University, where he co-directs the annual Mountain Heritage Literary Festival and serves as executive editor of drafthorse: the literary journal of work and no work. He is a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars at Bennington College. His fiction, poetry, essays and reviews have appeared in journals such as River Styx, Flyleaf, [PANK], Fiction Southeast and others.
A review by The Tishman Review: http://thetishmanreview.com/2014/11/on-crimes-against-birds/
These are first of all poems of attention, attention to the natural world, to cultural heritage, and to wonders encountered solely in the mind. And they are always more than that. This bracing book considers what is seen and what is not seen, what is present and what is missing, and what is not yet arrived. A poet’s eye is working here with the other senses following. The tone that mixes melancholy with held-back joy feels inevitable and just right. This is a book to savor and linger over and then sit calmly in its presence. –Maurice Manning, author of The Gone and the Going Away
Do the wonders around me exist if mine are the only eyes to see, Denton Loving asks in one of this collection’s early poems. The answer is a resounding Yes, because Loving has the talent to convey what he has seen that we too might see, and feel, and know deeply. Crimes Against Birds is an impressive debut by a very gifted poet. –Ron Rash, author of Serena
These beautifully crafted poems astonish with their sudden shocks of emotional power. Denton Loving explores the mutations of the inner life with compassion and a streak of melancholy, as well as the outer patterns of the natural world, both with a keen eye and a knowing heart. A wonderful first collection. –Lynne Sharon Schwartz, author of Disturbances in the Field
Even in sleep, I feel
beating drops of rain,
each one wisdom
like an icy knife point
pricking my skin,
bringing blood to the surface.
Could it rain
enough for the lifeblood
to pump, until its last drop?
I should rise,
staunch the flow
before it’s too late,
but my mind trembles.
Otherwise, I’m still.
Let me bleed out,
or give me peace.
I am an island
in a red lake,
the metallic taste
of blood on my tongue.
(for Jim Minick)
The prosecutor in the case once pulled me under
a hemlock bough to show the remains
of a hummingbird nest, which was to say he cared
about such things. Yet, he allowed his arguments to stand
on facts and didn’t waste excessive rage to win the case.
It was bad luck that led the accused man’s path
through the hayfield to cross the flight of a goldfinch.
A yellow song met its death that day among the fescue,
left a debt to be paid. Service to community
was the judgment. The prosecutor suggested
the sentence, promised to assist the enforcement.
He’d teach the man to build boxes for blue birds, feeders
for winter. They’d sow socks for thistle, mix berries in suet.
The prosecutor taught the convict the sounds
of the birds. Old songs sprouted anew
like fresh feathers, some soft and small as down,
some as bright as a summer tanager. Some were loud
as the trilling of a mother wren. Others were subtle
and distant as a whistling hawk riding the wind.
While they worked, the prosecutor repeated
the arguments that won the case, but under the forest
canopy and in the pasture, his passion rose to that of a man
preaching brimstone and damnation:
Man cannot walk through life outside the company of birds.
They surround us, share their music with us, protect us
from evil. Every feather found in the weeds is a reminder
to be happy. What kind of man tracks through woods and fields
so unaware that he fails to hear their music?
In the middle of night I wake
to a dying cow, holy
even in its pain, as it stands
on a hillside of fescue,
split open from neck
She’s rotting from the inside
out. A terrible sight.
Only an animal has the dumb
courage to walk around
with its intestines hanging
ready to explode.
You and I see the gaping
wound. We smell the stench.
Neither of us knows
what to do. If we had a rifle
and were brave, we could
cleanly put all of us – you and me
and the cow – out of this misery.
But all we have is dynamite
and my dad’s old brown Thunderbird,
left also to rot, forgotten
in the cow field. We
wire the car into a bomb, argue
who will be the one
to turn the key.
Why does it never occur to us
to leave the dynamite and the cow,
to drive away? Because we need
exploding carnage to know the death
is done. After all, what‘s love
but hearts and stomachs,
blood and guts?