Ken Autrey
2013 Chapbook Contest Winner


I am the man whose mind
will not forget, who calls forth
whole tableaus from all
the past, remembers every line
I've ever read. The days
reel back in photographic
density, each stippled sign
a gateway to bright stretches
that will not elude me.

One taste of apple bread
opens a sudden journey
into the sunlit kitchen
where my mother's elbows spread
like wings above quick clouds
of pastry flour. The way
her palms and fingers knead
the glowing dough reopens
galleries of painted peasants.

Unwittingly I see the staid
hands of Daumier's workers,
each stooping posture,
worn sleeve and nodding head
framed as it always will be
in my mind's unblinking gaze.
My ears know concerts played
ten years ago, each note
and rest a weary revelation.

This labyrinth, this travail
of exactitude, others envy
as they test my mastery
of names, dates, numbers, all
that keeps me from whatever
truths lie green and tangled
over this dogmatic wall
of fact. Even these words
now flatten into precision,
holding me in relentless thrall.

© 2013 Ken Autrey

Author Biography

Ken Autrey taught English at Francis Marion University from 1989 to 2011. Following his retirement, he and his wife Janne Debes moved to Auburn, AL, his hometown. Previously, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, a middle school teacher in upstate New York, and a writing instructor at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. In 1996-97 he was a visiting professor at Hiroshima University in Japan. In 2012, he conducted summer writing workshops in Guangzhou, China.

Autrey earned a B.A. degree from Davidson College and graduate degrees from Auburn University and the University of South Carolina. His poems and essays have appeared in many periodicals, and his work is included in various anthologies. His poetry chapbook, Pilgrims, was published in 2010 by Main Street Rag. He has published essays on contemporary poets such as James Dickey and Richard Wilbur, and his scholarly publications and presentations often address issues in the teaching of writing.

Ken and Janne have two daughters (Nell and Tess) and six grandchildren.

©2013 Longleaf Press at Methodist University | Fayetteville, NC