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  • Skylar Hamilton Burris

The Poetry of Paul David Atkins

Paul David Adkins writes poetry, he says, “partly to record my experiences, and partly to see how finely I can tune language to say exactly what I want in the fewest words possible.” Over the years, Paul’s poetry has appeared in a variety of publications, including Chattahoochee Review, Caveat Lector, Rock & Sling, Crab Creek Review, and, of course, my own Ancient Paths.

I first encountered Paul’s work when I published his poem “Marriage of the Prophet” in Issue 12 (2004) of Ancient Paths. The work earned Paul a Pushcart Prize nomination. He was one of the featured poets in Ancient Paths Issue 16 (2010), which contained multiple poems from three select poets, including Paul himself, Carol A. Oberg, and Nicholas Samaras. The issue also contained fiction from two featured writers, Edoardo Albert and Mark McKenna. One of Paul's poems in Issue 16, “Study War No More,” garnered him a second Pushcart Prize nomination from Ancient Paths.

These two prize-nominated poems were entered into the Ancient Paths digital archives and are available to read below. You can read the other nine Paul David Adkins poems that were published in Ancient Paths by ordering a copy of Issue 16.

Marriage of the Prophet by Paul David Adkins

Hosea 1:2

So many people, every bit of a nation, had sinned. But it wasn’t Hosea’s job as a prophet to stop them. He just had to marry a whore and suffer publicly as she stepped out on him. He just had to watch his children grow into worthless weeds: their fruit a stink, their leaves of choking fingers. But in the temple as a boy, what a little man he was: his little tie, his parted hair, his Bible in his hand. Everyone knew he would surely be a pillar of the town. His pious wife would be the obvious choice for organist. But now at forty, with Gomer laughing somewhere with a lover, he realized serving God was not platitudes or preaching. It was not rubbing his forehead over the Torah late into the night. It was loving a woman stumbling drunk at dawn, shouting, “Let me in!” It was tenderly wiping vomit from her slack and aging face.

Study War No More by Paul David Adkins

Isaiah 2:4

I toured Iraq. I can’t watch

a war movie now, see fear

acted. Of all His promises

this one I clench so tight

I sweat on it. In my fist

it nestles -- a tiny, shiny jewel

which validates my work, swears it will end.

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