The Distance to Nightfall


poems by

Patricia L. Hamilton

Poetry book, 68 pages, $14 cover price

Release date: July 15, 2014


hamiltonA native of Southern California, Patricia L. Hamilton earned her Ph. D. from the University of Georgia before settling with her husband in Jackson, TN, where she is a professor of English at Union University. Her work has appeared in Iodine Poetry Journal, Ibbetson Street, Cumberland River Review, Poetry South, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Vol. VI: Tennessee, among other journals. She has received two Pushcart nominations and was a finalist for the 2013 Rash Poetry Award. She enjoys music, photography, travel, and curling up with a good mystery novel.

This wonderful debut collection is a testament to Hamilton’s keen eye and her mastery of metaphor and imagery.  But more importantly, these poems probe the depths of the human condition. Yes, nightfall is inevitable.  But what do we do as we move towards it or await its arrival?  Hamilton reminds us that we question, cry, rejoice, doubt, embrace, praise, dance, let go and hold on until “a glimmer of light will signal we are home.

— James E. Cherry, author of Loose Change

The beautiful tenderness in poem after poem of Hamilton’s Distance to Nightfall only adds to the hard-headedness of her observations.  There’s gentleness here, but also the awareness that the world is an unforgiving place, as well as a lovely one, and we are only passing through on a journey from one darkness to another.  For Hamilton in this luminous collection, one must be prepared for life’s dangerous lessons, as well as accepting of its gifts.

–Robert Cooperman, winner of the Colorado Book Award for In the Colorado Gold Fever Mountains.

Ms. Hamilton is a poet of many weathers, from the inclement to the gorgeous.  She is as good at evoking heartbreak as she is at calling up unexpected happinesses, a rarity among today’s fashionable poets. What is more, she often surprises us, moving from the diction of “A smooth white fogbank lolls offshore” (“Camouflage”) to that of “When I was sixteen good jobs were scarce” (“Innocence”) with the sprezzatura of a Renaissance artist.”

–John J. Brugaletta, author of The Tongue Angles, Tilling the Land, and With My Head Rising Out of the Water.



The sun pouts above the rooftops,
a stubborn child resisting bed.
Parched asphalt laps at shadows
spilling in sharp angles, the runnels
spreading over unquenched cracks.
Palm fronds flash a glint of blades
against a careless sky.
I watch a scatter of clouds, puffs of boredom
drifting toward nothing.
Fire absorbed all afternoon in porch steps
bakes against my skin.
Long after light has burned to ember
the store of heat will flame from bricks–
long after I lie flush-skinned,
the darkness taut with listening,
straining for the click of a latch, a tread,
thirsty for cool fingers skimming my cheek,
twining through my tangled hair,
the dry leaves outside the window
murmuring an unanswered prayer.


Summer Evening, Laguna Beach

Mist washes against our faces as we navigate
shifting sidewalk currents; strands of tourists
weave the flux like undulating kelp.
Frothy laughter from an open-air café
roils the undertow that tugs us into silence,
our unbridged span of years
marked by the careful space between us.
Storefronts swim in light, splash
tropic-colored wares against our eyes;
planters of marigolds exhale the rust
of salt air, the slow corrosion of drowned years.
Tongue-tied, I plumb our sea-change:
languid transformations of fragile bone and eye,
a thousand buoyant hopes now submerged
beyond recovery.
Our meandering leads
to dazzling treasure, an antiques shop window
the porthole to a sealed and airless cargo
of lost time. We gaze at burnished wood,
rich craftings of inlaid mahogany
intricate as memory,
the unexpected brush of your sleeve
an anchor to my foundering.

Rhapsody in Blue

Head bowed, the pianist awaits her cue,
her gown a rich azure that shimmers
like the jeweled waters encircling
a tropical island, the exact color
of heartbreak.
Her hands drowse in her lap,
nesting doves dreaming
of flight.

Roused by the conductor’s baton,
those fragile fingers suddenly command
the universe, fashioning
continents, sculpting landmasses
into dusky peaks, pounding insistently
as surf against crumbling cliffs,
spume suspended against the sky
like an old memory.