Deborah Townley Stallard passed away earlier this year. These poems were submitted to Terror House on her behalf by her husband Andrew. We hope we did Deborah’s memory justice.

The Old Bridge Over the Chattahoochee

After the last storm
the bridge stayed out for days
swaying, it kept time to the wind.
silent, without the passing cars
it looked wounded,
The river underneath
still rushed with the flood—
branches, parts of houses
clothes, dolls, window frames.
Having been so long ago constructed
no one knew how to rebuild it.
Traffic rerouted
onto the new road
miles away.
I could stay there for hours
waiting for it to fall—
wondering how the river would take it—
how hard it would be to watch.

The Taoist Mechanic in Georgia

He knew adverbs, verbs—
He thought adjectives were the stuff of priests, of women.
So, carefully
His hands built the engine—
wrapped in grease
thick, full embryonic.
his hands kept track of the
bolts, screws—-
the great heart of her.
Some posters tacked to the walls
gave to him the women.
He saw them spread
limp as the dead.
dead as the squirrels he had shot
on the back porch of his clapboard
house in back country Atlanta
He was not sick.
He was not rare.
It was in his hands
that you saw
his entire concentration
the grease the substance
his chance for the immortal.


Clapboard bleached out
the smell is waking up
in the mornings
and the sky is amber.
You, sipping coffee
pretending to play chess.
it is old here—
a remnant, sealing
the Present in
Tabloid movement,
She is frayed around the edges
walks, an old woman
who has walked her whole
life down River St.
with her parasol,
white gloved.
the wind off the sea
blows her ribboned hat
away from the sailors
laughing against the quay.
She is a port—
widow walks and
ships that draw
the Sea in lines of dark gray.
She receives
one thigh cocked
silk black nylons.
The bed is full of sand
and spilled with sour beer
She pretends that you’ve pleased her
crooks one perfect nail.

Night Trains

I’ve been complaining again
About the Sun
It is winter here
the homeless men who sleep
outside the Church beg for quarters
for a pint-brown warmth
I hold my hand out flat open
they wake when I wake
carry out their boxes for storing
somewhere, across the way
behind the Indian place
they smell curry in their dreams—
some nights they fight.
In the morning I carry out
Under the winter clouds colors are pale reflections
The air is so wet
the breath comes in gray cartoon balloon clouds.
Last night I heard the Decatur train
I dreamed it was the wind
A vicious winter storm
threatening to tear the house to timbers
my lover turned in his sleep
He said: Contracts.
I heard that wakening
the wind down the tracks
the stench from the engine
drowned in the rain.

The Memory of the Ocean

For my son studying Philosophy
on the beach in Cambodia

The pull of the sea binds with our eyes
The colors silvery, grey, green, black
The movement pulses with our blood
Diving in we know the names of entities
Fish, seaweed, anemone, crab but then
The senses, touch, seeing, smelling when we burst to the top
So that we remember who we are
What are hearts are for—
But the sound is the thing
Filling, merging, calming, changing
Each mind with its endless rocking
Eroding slowly until
The sharp edges of wrathful thoughts, questions,
Words, memories, even love that have leeched into our brains
Are detached and honed into
The precision of particles of sand-
Sand buffed smooth, faceted thoughts sliding becoming
Moveable- as changeable as the English that we speak—
There are so many words for a thing—
But only one sound the Universe makes.