The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Thomas Rain Crowe

Here With Who Shot John

                                      for Jim Wayne Miller 


Here where the nary and neverminds
don’t give a shuck or a jive
’bout the bees in the branch or
the billies in the blind that
come clear, come hell or high water
and dabble down at the spring house
where the ducks lay their eggs
and I write.

Here where the burnt-out dog lies
on the porch bull-raggin the bugs
til he is bit and bawls like a lunk-head
and lopes down the yard and
through the garden greens and taters
til he is out of sight.

Here where the beauty of the hills
holds sway over my pricey thoughts and
my puny pen makin’ its way across paper
like it was a goat in the grass
goin’ nigh into the new ground that
we cleared this week for more corn.

Here where this night in my noggin
names notions that no furriner ever knew
and no gabby gal ever let slip from
her sweet tongue that wouldn’t melt butter
or swaller no shine.

Here in this creekbed of moonlight whar
a wetrock won’t even sharpen my words,
woozy and wrangled from Who-Shot-John
and I wrastle with the devil in the winder
like an old windbag
who is pert-nigh petered out
and wild outen his eyes.

*Southern Mountain speech term for ‘corn liquor’ or moonshine.

Thomas Rain Crowe

Crack Light

                   after James Still 


Where rocks grow and mud cracks on the logs and
there is a little light at dawn or a cold burst of
wind ‘round dusk comes through and
burns a candle lower than
a man that would brag on his lies or suck sour sop from
an old bowl with ner any spoon, I touch the daylight and
the pline blank moon of my mind in this crack light as if to
spark the white-skinned girl up the branch with these words.

With my heart kilt like a plate of creases and greens,
I make a match to this wick of words gone a tad soft
in the head like a sad loaf or a sass patch of poke
after a killing freeze. I can hear the no-never-mind that
it don’t make when she looked at me and said:
“Why you can’t dance?” that night in the jenny barn like
I was standing there in long johns only the size of a piss ant
or my pecker in that moment of jubious grace.

Now, here in this warmhouse and sure as hen’s pepper
ill-famed in the eyes of any booby-owl or Big Eyed Bird, I
chew cud with this ink and the dibble-dabbles of the sounds
in my head that boogered my sleep, that lost I can’t keep,
in this lack of skewbald light and rowan logs that the
light shines through like a peeping tom called a house that
in another time or life she might see in this dark light
and even though I can’t dance call a poem.

* metaphor from Southern Mountain Speech referring to the light of day
which comes in through the cracks between the logs in a log cabin or barn.




THOMAS RAIN CROWE is an internationally-published author of more than thirty books, including the multi-award winning book of nonfiction Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods (2005); Learning To Dance (Selected Love Poems) and the Celtic language anthology Writing the Wind: A Celtic Resurgence (The New Celtic Poetry). As an editor, he has worked with the Beat-inspired Beatitude magazine in San Francisco in the 1970s and was Director of the 1 st Annual San Francisco Poetry Festival in 1976. He has also been an editor of Katuah Journal and the Asheville Poetry Review. He is founder and publisher of New Native Press. He lives in the Tuckasegee community in the mountains of western North Carolina. He can be reached at or at his website at



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