Cross this Bridge at a Walk
600 Overbrook Dr
Nicholsville, KY 40356
Review: Into the Ticking Heart -
an excursion into Jared Carter's Cross this Bridge at a Walk
old tree leans,
it will sucker out along one side.
When it finally
goes down, all those branches
trees, standing in a row, growing
out of the
old one. You can read them
like an arrow
blazed there, an inscription
who come after."
To this British reader, leafing through Jared Carter's Cross this Bridge at a
Walk was like tracing lines across American plains. The voices of history travelled with me, like friendly ghosts, acting
The soul of a place is its people: those who went before and loved the land, fought
for it, worked it, gave it names. From the outset, Carter's poems glow with personality, firsthand accounts of what it meant
– and still means – to touch that land's spirit, to feel it live and grow. "I don't read much. I know green
things," confesses an old gardener in the collection's opening poem, Raccoon Grove.
But Carter's words, fluid and clear and sustaining as the mussel-filled river, span
the banks – between truth and charm, cruelty and humanity, loss and the assertion of hope – with a style that
is at once direct as it is brimming with emotion. History is cracked open, and the soft flesh of those who live within is
"It has always been my concern that politics not come before good manners," the
gambling Confederate officer assures his adversary in Covered Bridge.
If only it could always be so. The terrible accounts of how the early Shakers were
treated, as told in Exhumation, the brutal robbery of Dude the pearl-hunter in Mussel Shell, and the actions
of those who preferred to throw bricks instead of bread at the starving marchers in Coxey's Army, serve to remind us,
that though humanity will always assert itself, there are also those who try to thwart the good deeds of others.
But the heartwarming tales of acceptance that are Carter's Catalpa and Spirea
outshine such harsh truths. In these poems, two distinct individuals – a farm-hand who must run for the woods once
a year because of things no one else can see, and a woman who "owned nothing, needed nothing, harmed no one" – come
to be understood, just a little, by those whom they choose to live among.
Whilst my favorite poem from the book is undoubtedly Mussel Shell –
as it drew a tear at the inexorable loss of old ways – I find Carter also weaves a special magic in Reminiscence
and The Bones, where, with the reverence for music known only to poets, he takes us deep into the ticking heart of
rag-time and further back, to the origins of the "ratcheting patterns" of African rhythm.
Throughout his works, he utilizes a wealth of detail, with not a single fact denied
the attention and respect it deserves. Returning to themes such as the passage of time, the need for kindness, the power of
faith, and the peculiar effects of war upon those it touches, the poems continually focus on one essential quality: the bountiful
spirit within people that beautifies a country by their efforts.
These are poems no one could regret taking time over. For me, they hold the very
soul of America up to the fading light – a last look that we may not forget – and convey such natural sincerity
in their lingering narratives, I am brought closer to that soul, only to find that it feels like home.
So, walk slowly with Jared Carter, look down between the boards of that old bridge,
and see what lies there in the flow of words, the passage of history set out "for those who take the time to look, who want
~ By Gram Davies
Gram Davies was born and lives in England, where he survives on a low income in the relatively affluent vale
of Taunton Deane, Somerset. He is twenty-eight years old, and grew up in a rural location near Sedgemoor, on the edge of the
levels. Poetry and music have been integral to his life since childhood. He has few aspirations toward fame or fortune, preferring
the close-knit community of the internet and a few carefully chosen friends. His career-path has continually suffered in favor
of his "spiritual path", a term he abhors except with reference to the direct experience of nature and the people he loves.
He feels that poetry means nothing until shared.
Gram is a semi-regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
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