Scott Ward

Professor of Literature and Creative Writing

Roberts Music Center 109
fountain pen icon
Crucial Beauty (Scop Publications), Wayward Passages (2006, Black Bay Books)

Degrees

M.A., University of South Carolina

Scott Ward

A poet whose first volume, Crucial Beauty (Scop Publications), won the 1990 Loiderman Poetry Prize. His most recent volume is Wayward Passages (2006, Black Bay Books). He has served as poetry editor of Southern Humanities Review and Shenandoah. His poems have appeared in anthologies such as American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon) and Buck and Wing: Southern Poetry at 2000 (Washington and Lee) and journals, including America, Southern Humanities Review, Shenandoah, and The Christian Century.

To Order Wayward Passages, Please Contact:
Black Bay Books
1939 Sand Basin Road
Grand Ridge, FL 32442
pvl@blackbayfarm.com

His poetry also can be found in these anthologies: In Our Own Words: Alabamians Read Alabama; Alabama Poets: A Contemporary Anthology; From the Green Horseshoe: The Poems of James Dickey’s StudentsDue South: An Anthology of Auburn Writers

Selected Poems

The Bats

They are always there in the dark
when I turn up the Old Mill Road,
dropping into the top of my beam for insects
swarming toward the light.

They have come oddly
from the rotted hollows of trees,
respiring caverns or flooded mines
in the river bluff,

like nothing else in the night.
When the sun grows large and sets,
the shape of their world
becomes sound, the flight

of the gray moth they call for
crackles in their ears
like grist breaking under the millstone.
The entire forest

is for them a congregation
of swaying tones, wavering, pine-shaped,
up to them. The mine shaft they seek
at dawn, fatigued

from night feeding, its entrance,
every turn and cranny, is a lulling
tune of comfort. They are always there
in the dark, proving ways

to move in the world
not exactly ours. Sometimes I could deliver
myself to every form of the night,
all of those clamoring songs,

switch off the headlights and drive
up the Old Mill Road, listening
to pine trees, housetops and chimneys, other
skidding shapes in the dark, hearing

my voice return in the shape of the world.

© Scott Ward

My Brothers Make a Lantern

All light has left the yard.
Only the sky holds the blue
of light turning back into dark
and shaping in hard shadow every edge
of roof top, every leaf and tree limb,
shaping my two young brothers
as they sway in silhouette bodies
after fireflies.

A green light opens in air.
They dart with a tin lid
and a mason jar, quick as fish
to trap the insects. Above them
the light of the moon is broken
in tangles of pine, and they appear
and disappear among the trees
far away to the dark of the woods.

Their voices have tapered away
into distance; the forest takes in
the night air. Far off, a woman
is calling her children home,
and the sound of a train labors
into the dark. I want to call out
to my brothers, but I see,
very faintly, their light.

This darkness lies thick on my skin.
I move slow under its cover, an outline
in the cool air; I go where the green
spark has shifted beyond the last
boundary of dark, holding my eyes wide open
to take in the field of pure black.
When the green light crosses back to me,
I enclose it inside of my hand.

Slowly, by a living mantle of light,
my brothers return from the woods.
The circle their lamp is throwing
shows a different side of the night
where objects are one in the darkness
and change in the green of our sight.
I add my fly to the lantern and we walk
in the pulse of that glowing.
I move in the light with my brothers
and feel myself fill my whole shadow.

© Scott Ward

My Grandmother's Legend

I saw her try to kill the snakes
that would not die,
saw them writhe around
their wounds in garden dust,
how even with heads lopped off
by a strike of her hoe and its flashing

blade of sun,
slender copperheads whipped and knotted
at the dazzled place in the flesh.
“They will not die till sundown,”
she would say, flinging them
from the garden to the woods.

She knew some hatred came from God,
some enmity, and I believe
those serpents knew it too,
for every one would raise
itself against her, just like the first one
must have done in Eden.

The world would not go wrong again
on her account.  I wondered
at her sudden glare,
her bare ankles, as she struck
the rope of muscle at the neck
and held the hoe

down hard, while the snake pled
with her and I tried to understand
its dust-choked word, moved
always to beg some kind
of intercession, seeing
in a dying animal everything wrong

with the world, too young to know
some things cannot be reconciled.
She also knew my mind, and after
she flung the coiling tail into the woods,
she said, “You stay away from there,
you stay away till sundown.”

I sat in dust at the garden’s edge, afraid
of my usual paths, dangerous now
until sundown, something
inside me twisting into knots, as I stared
into a copper sun,
burning and burning and burning.

© Scott Ward

Showering My Son

The air is bronzed around him.
As Donatello’s David, his skin
holds its high polish and blinding
halations of cool fire.
My little warrior,
he stands in the easy elegance of infancy, a bar
of soap like a large stone
in his hand.  Steam sheens
his body, on his shoulders drops
gather radiance, and light
and water cast
his legs, posed in fine
contrapposto, with silver
greaves.  I scrub
his hard calves and thighs.
My pudgy body, soft
from office work, towers over him.
He is all hard definition,
from pectorals to Achilles tendons.
My sex, mature
and crude is flaccid
in its ratty nest, but his is clean
and classical–bunched foreskin,
scrotum curved and lined
like a linden leaf.  Fresh,
lovely, living bronze, artifice
of lineage, as David,
he gazes down at himself,
charmed by his eye’s arrowed
aim, his arm’s opulent power,
not at all astonished
at this terrible wedding
of grace and force: may these common
waters anoint you, son,
whom I have chosen
for our covenant.  May you grow
in grace and, from your youth, stride
over the befouled heads of giants.

© Scott Ward

Cruel

Silence after the truck’s grunting engine,
the creosote planks of the steel bridge groaned
with weight.  I looked out where sun
flamed the long valley of leaves
and flamed the water puckered over shallow
stones into obsidian fractures.

In the bed of my uncle’s pickup were two
dogs too old to point quail.  When he shoved
the fat setter over the railing,
it made no terrified whining, but paddled
its forepaws wildly until it diminished
into a white-sounding splash,
came up choking, and my uncle sprayed
its brains into water with the precise
aim of a hollow point.

Old Sooner struggled, eyes wide
with the height and fell back-first, twisting
two hundred feet down, its spine smashed
on a shallow rock, shots splashing
four times as the creature turned
immobile in the current, log-rolling
over the pebble shoals.  Each time uncle missed,
his laughter echoed, fading
into the river’s cool whisper.

My knuckles were gripped
white on the truck’s dash as I stared
through the steel
girded river.  I wished
someone would kill that hard bastard.

© Scott Ward