Amy Fleury





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Amy Fleury
’s collection of poems, Beautiful Trouble, won the 2003 Crab Orchard First Book Award and was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2004. Her poems have appeared in The American Life in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, North American Review, and The Southeast Review, among others.  Her fiction has been published in 21st and The Yalobusha Review.

Fleury has been a recipient of the Nadya Aisenberg Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony and a Kansas Arts Commission fellowship in poetry. Though she now resides in Topeka, where she teaches at Washburn University, she is a native of Nemaha county.

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I remember that first whiskey kiss,

desire clambering up the ladder of my ribs.

My hair was wreathed in wood smoke

and the soft crush of leaves.

I wore his flannel coat every day that winter.


Driving those backroads, I could count

the lazy bales slumped in the snow,

each fencepost strung with barbed wire

till we found our place in the windbreak,

where breath was our own kind of weather.


Across the acres of corn stubble and stars

our folks slept in the depths of their quilts.

The clocks in our kitchens trembled at the hour

while we left warmth in the wake of our hands.


Come spring the thaw ran the ruts of the road

and our stand of cottonwoods began to bud.

And on a night riven by lightning

we gave in to the rhythm of rain.

After, with the truck stuck up to the axle,

he sent me, storm-blind and aching, through the field.

I remember hope, slender as a grass blade,

and guilt, caught like a thorn in my throat.




Once there was a walnut tree that shook its sorrows onto our house.

At night we could hear them clatter to the roof,

tumbling over shingles, wobbling down the pitch.

In the bellowing wind, the tree bent beneath the eaves.

Its branches tapped and scraped at our window

until my brother too unfurled from the tight husk of sleep.

What were we to do? A boy, a girl, adrift in our beds,

washed in the shadows of a tree bereft.


On autumn days its roots followed me all over the yard.

Hulls lay about. Squirrels pillaged the hollow snouts.

We raked the torn leaves into piles,

and in the chilled evenings they burned.

The smoke lifted from loam to limbs;

ash settled on our shadows, our coats.

What would we make of a life both blighted and blessed?

There was trouble all around and everywhere little mercies.   















All poetry on this page
© by
Amy Fleury, 2006 


Nemaha County Nocturne


The difficult stars parse the night into silence,

benediction, dream. Between soil and silo thrums

the grammar of grain and all of Kansas rests.


The slender roots of weeds suck at the dirt,

and the listing windmills and ruined barns

lean toward their beginnings. Flowing north,


our river glides through glacial cuts

and those ghosts of  primitive sea.

A turtle, overturned dish


of flesh and patience, swims

against history’s blur.

Locusts resurrect


the wind and with

reluctant tongues

we name it






The Fugitive Eve


In the first moments of knowing,

juice drips down her chin onto

her breasts. Lips and tongue learn

in this oldest, truest way.

The fruit is round and radiant

The firm weight of it feels

like power. Shreds of flesh catch

in her teeth, and as she eats

she knows it is good.


He needs no serpent to tempt him.

He just wants what she has, just as she wants him

to want what she holds in her hands.

They share it, then toss the core into a bush,

knowing that this is the beginning of death,

the first and best blessing.


And with the original chill of delight

and shame, she is on the lam,

running through brambles, plum boughs,

and luminous webs, past low slung branches,

past the birds of the air and beasts of the field,

over the rocky soil, stumbling out

of the garden, out of the numb perfection

of before into the brilliant and difficult ever-after.

She is running and running, she feels

the warm rub of her blood-slicked thighs

and a thudding, which is her heart. He is close

behind her, clutching the pain in his side.

They take hold of one another

in their wonder and woe,

and we call out to them

from our place in the future,

this moment, now. We beg them

with our fragile voices,

Mother, Father, bear us

into the beautiful trouble

of this world.     

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