Naming the Trees / BJ Wilson


Naming the Trees

poems by

BJ Wilson

ISBN: 978-1-59948-876-9, 76 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release/ship Date: May 11, 2021

The Advance Sale Discount for this title expired March 30. For those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $18/book (which includes shipping + applicable sales tax) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 


B.J. Wilson’s work has appeared in Atlanta Review, Frogpond, Gravel, The Louisville Review, New Madrid, Tar River Poetry, and elsewhere. He is the author of the poetry chapbook Tuckasee (Finishing Line Press, 2020). He holds an MFA from the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University, a writing fellowship from The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, and a Pushcart Prize nomination for his poetry. B.J. is also a song writer and vocalist, and his music can be found on his website,

The great French mime artist Marcel Marceau, whom I once witnessed on stage re-enacting the growth of a tree, called mime “the art of silence.” Silence is also very much at the heart of how B.J. Wilson brings nature slowly and poignantly to life in Naming the Trees, and reading it is a similarly riveting experience. It is a liminal book, luminously on the line between rural and urban, self and other, secrecy and revelation. ~Ann Neelon



The poems in B.J. Wilson’s Naming the Trees have utterly broken my heart with beauty, honesty and a lonely, quiet music that sings in the most ghostly minor key. There is confession in these pages but there is also a heroic and quiet interrogation of what it means to live a life of recovery, both in the literal sense and in the figurative one as well. This is a wise and lovely book.  ~Daniel Anderson

Outside the Motel, Before Bed


There’s an earth-worn path around the motel’s pond.
Too dark to tell if the ducks
gathered at the center are mallards,
their bowed heads tucked under their feathers.
The frogs chirp before they leap
into the water one at a time.
When my eyes adjust to the night,
I find I’m less alone in my wakefulness—
ducks on the other side
drift along the banks. Passing by,
one splits the motel’s red sign into ripples.

Though right below an interstate,
woods reach around this pond—
walking the path back, warm blankets
of trees and trumpet vine
brush my arm with their leaves,
call in a chorus: we’ll be here.



Deer at Night


Not yet ready for winter, I drive by more Halloween art, the trick-or-treaters
already asleep. Orange globes strung on shrubs, porchlight on a pumpkin,

black antlers in gold light off a wooden lamppost at the wood line. He slips
through a crevice between trees that lead to a parkway which will behead him.

From a field they cross the country road, one then two more, darkest brown,
tentative and shy as I stop the car. They fade in the twilight, blur into black

shapes: a trailer, dump truck or backhoe, a new building’s frame. Then reappear
in pasture, the last farm left, wade into the light of new homes beyond them.



Suicide Watch

When coyote comes toward you
confuse him by sniffing his ass. ~Norman Minnick


I followed the coyote from a man’s poems
into my own, found him standing under

the last of autumn leaves in the trees.
The ridges peppered auburn and brown,

winter in the late fall winds, clouds
darkened as if the afternoon fell into dusk.

I never knew him, but faculty who did
passed around a sheaf of his poems

after he hanged himself. I taught remedial
English at night too, the same admins

shutting down writing centers, hissing
pay would never improve, that even more

tenured faculty would be fired. Clouds
clear above us; I don’t know what to say.

I can only tell him goodbye, that gesture
a luxury that for him no longer applies

in this place. Coyote beckons me to stay
with blue sky, an orange sun behind

him like an aureole, but I’ve come back
now, to finish this poem so I can bury it.



As the First Snow Falls, I Think on the Recent Suicide
of an Old Friend’s Teenage Son

. . . far away, I can almost see you reaching the summit,
dogwood berries woven into sashes, short one person.  ~Wang Wei


I’ve wandered to the car,
quiet as I can,
sneakers a few hours
from boots
crunching ice,
chap stick at my desk
so low, its moisture
must be mined
with a fingertip.
But the roll
in my glovebox
has frozen shut,
the backyard beneath
a white shroud.
And when the safety light
finally flicks on,
one does what we all do
on the first snow:
peer upward
into the dark,
for all the flecks of light
falling to find us.

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