Poems |

John Allman

John Allman was born in New York in 1935. His first poetry collection, Walking Four Ways in the Wind, was published in the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets (Princeton University Press 1979). Allman went on to publish several books, and in 1983 won a Pushcart Prize in Poetry. The following year he earned the first of two fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts (the second was in 1990). Through the years, he worked as a technician for Pepsi-Cola and taught at various higher education schools. Today he is retired and lives primarily in Katonah, New York, while wintering in Hilton Head, South Carolina, which inspired his book, Lowcountry, published in 2007 by New Directions.

“The Beach at Windsor Place”

Out of our shoes, across the dunes, watching

the curve of day sink its wheel rim rolling

into the sea, a crescent moon suddenly

crossed by four pelicans, swaying travelers

nearly asleep, though on the wing, their lives threaded to a single beat.

Something in the brain

disbelieves distance, a motion in the sky forever

near. Stillness destroyed in the surge at our feet,

as we step over carapace and weed through the portals

of blandness, striking down mild comparisons,

penetrating the sleep of gulls, something of us

tossed into the surge and returned, footprints swirling

in the signatures of bodies where we walk the wind,

the tide rocking forward, nothing but erasure on its mind.

From Lowcountry by John Allman (New Directions, 2007)

Marcus Amaker

Marcus Amaker was born in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1976. As the son of military man he spent his childhood moving around the country, until he attended the University of South Carolina, graduating with a major in journalism in 1999. He moved to Charleston thereafter, and worked for The Post & Courier newspaper by day while establishing himself as one of the area’s most prolific spoken word poets by night. In 2010, Charleston magazine named the editor, graphic designer, and poet of the city’s most intriguing people. Today Amaker lives in Charleston, South Carolina, and is editor of the weekly entertainment Charleston Scene.

alarm clock (flashing red) 

you walked

into me


the morning -


piercing through

a darkened,

closed mind.



as i awoke,

you spoke

and our language

was the language

of the wind,

shaking tree



i held

your hand.


“Saturn's Day”

what light that shines tonight is lightning -

in the dancing dream of a midnight sky

and the tiny sparks that surround us.


whether or not i am awake, i will focus

on this moment like a first kiss,

walking along the edge of a slippery reality,


ready to fall completely in.


it is our light that suppresses any fleeting flames

and overcomes darkness like a glowing memory.


it's our light that will burn beyond this flash in time

and supersede the lack of sunshine.


what light that shines tonight is electric -

weaving through the endless stream of streetlights

and the irresistible pandemonium of stars

that guided us home.



Ken Autrey

Alabama native earned a B.A. from Davidson College in North Carolina and graduate degrees from both Auburn University and the University of South Carolina before serving in the Peace Corps in Ghana. After his time in Africa, Autrey taught writing at Tougaloo College in Mississippi and later became a visiting professor at Hiroshima University in Japan. Today Autrey lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and teaches English at Francis Marion University in nearby Florence. His poems have been published in the Atlanta Review, Chattahoochee Review, Cimarron Review, Poetry Northwest, South Carolina Review, Southern Poetry Review, among other publications.


Before the Wedding by Ken Autrey

My daughter sits

in a silk robe beside

the bedroom window.

Her hair is impeccable,

fixed in a bun the veil

will soon cover.

She is passive, hands at rest

on her crossed legs.

She says little

as the attendants

move around her

like courtesans,

powdering her face,

preparing her dress.

For long moments

she stares out the window.

The Saturday sky is overcast.

A slight wind troubles

the late spring leaves.

She waits until the last

possible minute to rise

and begin to dress.

At the flourishing

of crinoline and lace,

I leave the room,

closing the door

on a covey of women

sipping champagne.

As I walk downstairs

their voices blur

like the murmur

of nesting birds at dusk.

“Before the Wedding” by Ken Autrey, from The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume 1: South Carolina, edited by Stephen Gardner and William Wright (Texas Review Press, Huntsville, 2007)


 Libby Bernardin

 Georgetown, South Carolina native Libby Bernardin is the author of The Book of Myth (Stepping Stones Press, 2009), which she says focuses on the people and stories of her hometown. Past poems were published in the Notre Dame Review, Kakalak, and other literary journals. Bernardin taught English at the University of South Carolina before retiring to Georgetown. She’s on the board of the South Carolina Academy of Authors, a member of the Poetry Society of South Carolina, and teaches several poetry workshops a year.

 “When you find love”

Seize it; not in a lustful way, but as though

you have stumbled upon something remarkable,

say a winter wren, fledgling grounded under

dense brush almost hidden in morning’s waking

a horse nearby, his nose burrowed in show


Cup it as though consecrated,

Place it in the nest from which

It has taken to the air:

         Do not ask it to meet your needs

         Do not ask it to choose

         Do not ask anything of it


Think instead of how it might be when

finally there is the feel of feet on limb

little wings ballooning out

trusting as it plunges until it can soar—


Grateful for gentle hands

that set it in sheer joy of journey,

grateful for shadows of crisp cedars

pointing toward season’s unspoken Word.

“When you find love” by Libby Bernardin from The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume 1: South Carolina edited by Stephen Gardner and William Wright (Texas Review Press, Huntsville, 2007)

Mary Elizabeth Lee

Mary Elizabeth Lee was born in 1813 in Charleston, South Carolina, where she lived until her death in 1849 at age 36. She began publishing anonymously, then initialed her work, and by the dusk of her writing career signed her poems and writings with her full name. Pieces by Lee appeared in The Southern Rose, Godey’s Lady’s Book, and the Southern Literary Messenger.


from “The Bridal”

 [poem excerpt]

“…It was well,

The soothing touch with which the pastor laid

Her hand within his own, who prest it close

In one long, fervent clasp, that seemed to tell

Of thoughts too deep for speech, as if he knew

The voiceless feelings of her secret soul.

Twas well for her! The kindling blood rushed back

Unto its living source: She strove to check

Her heaving frame, but felt the task was vain;

And in one gush of tears, gave her whole heart.






Beth Webb Hart

South Carolina native Beth Webb Hart holds a B.A. in English literature from Hollins College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her first novel, Grace at Low Tide, was one of three finalists for the 2006 Christy Awards in the general/contemporary fiction category. She lectures on a variety of topics and has taught creative writing on the college and high school level where she received two national awards from Scholastic, Inc. Hart lives with her husband, composer Edward Hart, and their daughter in Charleston, South Carolina, where she serves as a writer-in-residence at Ashley Hall. Her other novels include The Wedding Machine and Love, Charleston.


[excerpt one] 

From Love, Charleston by Beth Hart (Thomas Nelson, September 2010)


A note from the author:

“In this scene the rector (The Rev. Roy Summerall), a young widower, at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church has just proposed to a bell ringer, Anne Brumley, on the top balcony of the St. Michael’s 186 foot tall steeple.  To celebrate, the bell ringers are ringing a whole peal and the steeple is swaying back and forth as they look out over the city.” —Beth Webb Hart

Then he took her in his arms, the wind blanketing his face with her soft, sweet smelling hair.  They stood this way for a long time until he remembered the plan and stomped his foot four times on the balcony.  It was the signal he had given to Miss B. who had coordinated the bell ringers to ring a whole peal if she said yes, and the poor lady had been waiting on a rickety staircase for a half hour before she got the sign.

Then as the rounds began and the steeple swayed the way it did when the bells were calling out to the city, he took the ring out of the box, slipped it on Anne’s delicate finger and embraced her beneath the beautiful arches as Rose and Grannie looked on from the rectory window and clapped.  

As he held his future wife in his arms, Roy looked down at the picturesque old city and then out to the Harbor where the sail boats twittered like moths on the water as the sun lit up the surface with little chips of light.  He chuckled at how reluctant he had been to move to Charleston.  God’s plans were always better than ours, he thought.  And he could feel a sermon forming in his mind about how we might miss the blessing if we don’t acknowledge our short-sightedness, trust in His grace and make ourselves downright pliable.  

As the bells reverberated filling the air with the sound of God’s glory Roy knew the Almighty had given him a gift he never thought he could have again.  Roy loved the city, he had to admit it now, and the city, to his great surprise, loved him back.  He had a new home, a very happy little girl, and a partner that he could lean on until the end of their fleeting days of his earthly life.   


[excerpt two]

From The Wedding Machine by Beth Hart (Thomas Nelson, February 5, 2008)

 A note from the author: “In this excerpt the protagonist, Ray, who happens to be at a wedding reception is dancing with her husband of over 30 years who she met one night when she was in high school.  The wedding is set in a fictional Lowcountry town near the ACE Basin named Jasper.” —Beth Webb Hart 


Now Ray rests her head on the shoulder of her husband, and she thanks the good Lord for giving her this man so many years ago. What would her life have been like if she didn't let her mama push her out the door that night the gang invited her to come steal a watermelon?
She supposes they might have gotten together sooner or later, but they may not have had that moment.  That memory of the warm wheel well in the back of Angus's flatbed, and her future husband patting her back before putting his hand out flat as if he wanted her to give him five.  Then his gentle voice filling the black space between them as he said, “I’m Willy, pretty girl.”

Marjory Wentworth

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, Mt. Holyoke College and New York University graduate Marjory Wentworth has lived in South Carolina since 1989. Twice nominated for The Pushcart Prize, she was appointed South Carolina Poet Laureate in 2003. She has published numerous books of poetry, and in addition to running a public relations business, she also teaches poetry to cancer patients at Roper Hospital, and also taught at the Block Island Poetry Workshops, Furman University, and Emory University. She has also read poems at Yale University and the Library of Congress. Today she lives in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.


“The Coming Light”

The wedding procession passes through the shadows

of an old oak growing between a graveyard and a church.

All day the sun burned through its branches. Flowers shriveled

on the headstones. Little flags hung limp on black sticks.    


Now it is evening, and a wind moves off the sea.

It is a wind filled with tenderness, moving

across the bride's face like his breath, in the night

when he is kissing her. Sometimes,

when she looks at him while he is looking into her

it feels as if she is staring at the sun,

and she has to turn away. But it is too late.

She is already a woman in flames. She has forgotten

what life feels like without love. No ache and no hunger.


They have waited for twilight:  to marry

in the copper colored air that feels like water

all around and holds them up like water does.


At the doorway, she isn't thinking about the veil

slipping off her head, or whether

her grandfather's wheelchair made it over the steps.

She sees the groom waiting at the end of a tunnel of light.

At the altar, he is turned away from her. A thin crucifix

lies flat against the beige cracked stone wall.

She is certain, that before everything and everyone

there was God, filling the air

where she walks into the coming light.

“The Coming Light” by Marjory Wentworth from Noticing Eden (Hub City Writers Project in 2003)


“What Shines”

Tears falling that no one sees     familiar

voices      voices you love and the bells

ringing at the end of day     seedlings

sprouting on the windowsill     the future    

fish scales     iced branches      after

the storm     a choir     cloud covered stars

everyone’s soul     white candles glowing

at the church entrance     desire     unspent

coins in a saucer     hair filled with sunlight

or water     what the diamond means 

“What Shines” by Marjory Wentworth from The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle (Press 53, 2010)



If sleep has a smell, it grows here

when flowers raise their heads in the mist

to eat the light pulsing at the edge of the sky

where tapered tails of wind unwind

like roots stumbling through darkness.


After the green silence of dreams

I rise and drink the warm rain failing,

dig two holes in the ground

to plant my tired feet,

because I need to live for awhile


in the black bed of earth. On this island

rolling beneath unfurled tongues of fog,

where the scent of wet salt can turn the air

to bread in my mouth, or blanch

the dark fisted vines that never wither.


All winter, jessamine and honeysuckle

holding petals in their closed mouths,

were waiting for desire

to open them, in  the  wind,

to lose themselves in  rain.


When he is gone my heart rearranges

within my body, where nothing seems

to move for weeks or months. Alone

I wait for his scent to return

to the empty pillow beside me.


I am like the morning  glory

embedded on our fence slats,

collapsing her purple flowers

that will resurrect and inflate

with mouthfuls of air.


The smell of grass releasing

after hours of warm rain

enters the open windows of our house.

Odors move from room to room like music.

My husband listens in his sleep.


On a couch in the living room, he listens.

With children curling like kittens around his feet,

he sleeps. Beneath pages of the Sunday paper,

cradled by all that is familiar, he sleeps.

Knowing the color of love, he sleeps.

“Homecoming” by Marjory Wentworth from Noticing Eden (Hub City Writers Project, 2003)



A bride beneath a backpack

bigger than her body, holds

a vase of red and yellow

roses in front of her heart.

The groom, dragging a suitcase

on wheels, hugs a shopping bag

stuffed with still-wrapped gifts,  

wedding cake balanced on top.

They run through the airport,

ribbons spilling thin white streams

through the air behind them.

“Newlyweds” by Marjory Wentworth from Despite Gravity (Ninety-Six Press, 2007)

“The Unkempt Garden”

To find love

you must stumble many times

through its unkempt garden,

until roses growing wild along a fence

unfold and offer themselves to the wind.


Tear at the flowers with your teeth.

Let the sharp-tongued thorns

fill your mouth with kisses.

And petals, thick as rain, will slide

their offerings into you.

“The Unkempt Garden” by Marjory Wentworth from Noticing Eden (Hub City Writers Project, 2003)