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Poems by

Chuck Sullivan

Poetry book, 136 pages, $15 cover price

ISBN: 978-1-59948-121-0

Release date: 2008


Chuck Sullivan is winner of the Best Book of the Year in South Carolina, Best Book of the Year in North Carolina, the 2004 Mary Frances Hobson Award for Arts & Letters, and the 2005 award in honor of Sam Regan, for Achievement in Fine Arts. His books of poetry include Vanishing Species, A Catechism of Hearts, A Dream of Lions, The Juggler on the Radio, Longing for Harmonies, and Alphabet of Grace. His original adaptations of Dracula, Frankenstein, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth, were produced by Moving Poets Theater of Dance at the historic Carolina Theatre in Charlotte, NC. Currently, Chuck teaches poetry residences in North and South Carolina and is head of English at North Carolina Governor’s School East, a position he has held for thirty years. He lives in Charlotte, NC and Edisto Island, SC.

Chuck Sullivan knows his own trade, to the point where he is not afraid to be wounded by his own tools….his is a skill that looks steadily, and reports plainly, the flakey, edgy, bizarre, violent…with irony and steady eyed humor.


Sullivan’s poetry is created out of an intolerable tension between violent eroticism and an equally violent religious thrust, which, in his best poems combine with each other like fire on fire and merge as one.


…in a nutshell, is the great observation—and wise counsel—and maybe even the central message of Chuck’s uniquely accomplished, enduring art: the gentle, friendly, even encouraging reminder of our collective vulnerability.



The flag is no stranger to differing opinions
about its proper handling

NY Times, 23 June 2007

From my mother’s wound I volunteered
Into the surprise
Of a dark firefight in the Holy

City of Najaf’s larger than life
Cemetery and in a wicked feathered
Flash as if a terrible angel had arrived
Bright with the blinding shadow
Of the wanton Almighty and my bloom
Was cut like the quick of the rose
I once on her day gifted to my mother
And I was lost in finding

My petals folded within the flames
Of my Boy Scout’s body all lit up
By the mercy of an Allah Akbar RPG
Blowing me out of harm’s way
And into the grace of a black sun’s
Spangled pieces of STARS & STRIPES
FOREVER buried in the weave of Fate’s
Blood-needled threads of the same old

Same Old Glory stripped from my casket
By the fingers of the gold bars
Mined from Honor’s Central Casting
And when he made a present of it
He mumbled something to my mother
That sounded like, “A grave

Full nation thanks you…”
But he really meant something else
As Mom did too sitting there like a still

Life a study in perfect black cradling
The sharply folded red white and blue
To the grief-struck match of her heart
And in the behold of this fire
As was his duty the gold bars snapped

To attention and shot her point blank
With the crisp execution of his spit
And polish straight arrow salute


From a rich chocolate unwrapped
Rawlings box he hid behind his back
Poppy my boy’s heart magician
Made of the unexpected an apparition

“With a basket like that there’s nothing
you can’t catch, Bub.”

Later in bed
I closed my eyes
And put out my hands
And found myself given again
By my Grandfather’s love
To wearing the surprising

Error-free fit of my favorite Giant’s
Glove as I fielded in the deep light
Of my tenth birthday’s night game
Cutting quite a bright and perfect
Figure at First handling the toughest
Chances in my sleep with the spell-cast
Brilliance of a flash-in-the-pan all-star
All double plays ending in me

I was the natural of my dreams
Playing way over my head
My gift enriched with the fleeting
Grace of wishing’s child’s play
In which my waking world’s serious
Diamond was rounded within the dreaming

Pocket of my newly inherited hand
And yet I still hold close the memory
Of my old glove well-oiled and supple
My first glove through the torn trembling
Web of whose frail amateur grasp
Had found slipped only in the bottom
Of my ninth birthday the tricky chance
Of my father his bad hop I never saw
Coming the carom of his sharp hit
Curving foul only to be lost in the crowd

Somewhere way away way out
Of my league way out of the country
Going going gone south of the border
Bye bye baby to play out
All his games against home


Keith Dudney, 10, as he was running to catch his schoolbus, was hit yesterday morning by a pickup truck on Highway 9. Keith died later at Carolinas Medical Center.

Charlotte Observer, December 12, 1996

“What child is this…” this young Master
who clipped and roughly unharnessed
from breath was sent to tumble
from waiting and rush to see kingdom come
found lost in the last chance for this Christmas
with his present wrapped and his timeless
just reward received on the blacktop
stillness of Advent’s humbling dark

“What child is this…” who, “…in a flash…”
at a trumpet crash…” is, “all at once
what Christ is…” struck down
by a pickup as he crossed the road too soon
taken and all the difference made trying
to catch his school bus on the outskirts
of Lancaster’s Red Christmas Rose City

“What child is this…” who flew
across the center line flew
“…Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act…” flew
like the substance of a shadow
on the accidents of morning’s
broken wings falling between
Advent and The Nativity
and making no bones about it
as It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
we must wake and, “…feel the fell
of dark not day…”

A child has died
The Child is born
and the one who is not God
now lies boxed and hidden for Good
beneath and above all the angel-crowned
Christmas trees of this world
this child Keith now lies in truth
a keening gift among the gifts kept
of all the other long children
of Christmas mourning Light

And if you listen this Holy Night
you will witness their shut children’s choir
open with sweeter unheard melodies
in a rising carol’s slow rolling power
the music not small not small but far away
like The Star of Bethlehem lighting with Dylan’s
insight the long cold coming to the birth
of grief’s wisdom in the shaken hearts
of every child-lost father and mother
“After the first death there is no other.”

SKU: 978-1-59948-121-0 Category: Tag: