David Leightty

David Leightty’s second chapbook, Civility at the Flood Wall was published in 2002; his first, Cumbered Shapes, in 1998. Both were published by Robert L. Barth (Edgewood, Ky.). His poems have appeared in various journals, including Blue Unicorn, The Cumberland Poetry Review; The Epigrammatist, Light, The Lyric, Phase and Cycle, Riverrun, Slant, Sparrow, Spoon River Anthology, SPSM&H, and The New Compass.  In 2003 Leightty founded Scienter Press (www.scienterpress.org), a small poetry press. His short essay appeared in Louisville Magazine under the title “A Flood of Memories" and is a prose version of the story told in his poem "The Flood of '37."  Leightty is a practicing lawyer in Louisville, where he lives with his wife, Sharon (aka the artist, Howerton Leightty); they have, between them, four children, all raised in Louisville, and now all grown.

Hickok in Deadwood

Damn Texans, blown through Chisolm’s dry-gulch plains,
Settled my calling—marshal of Abilene,
Ft. Riley, Hayes. Where cow trails met the trains
My deadeye kept those wild towns passing clean.
I pranced a year with Cody, but I knew
His farce unworthy of the cross-hand draw.
Beat up some city toughs and I was through—
Lit out for where the blood was red. Yeehaw.

Calamity in Deadwood—I’ll foreswear.
I aim to fetch a dowry—Black Hills gold—
For my sweet Agnes and her fine-combed hair.
The cow towns used to hire my sights to hold
Wild men—so what was I? Well, I’ve got strange—
Eyes going bad….Hell, everything has changed.

Appeared in SPSM&H.

First Night

           Mary Anderson Center for the Arts
           Mt. St. Francis, Indiana

The wind-ruff has died, and the glare;
the lake is a still, dark glass
at dusk. A nighthawk passes,
silent, prowling the air
for the lace-winged multitude
rising from the grass.
An owl calls—distant, subdued,

heard only for the stillness.
Through my reflection I see
the lake’s dark sanctity.
Then it is wholly night;
I spot, far up the hill,
my room’s small, welcome light.

Named for a saint who spoke
with beasts, these civil grounds—
a careful sanctum, devised
for the white-tail and ruby-throat,
for sung and spoken sounds,
for whatever may arise
in safely husbanded bounds.

So husbandry of art
will thrive. Here, sleep and wake—
small wildness civilizes.
With the still pane of the lake,
be clear and deep and dark.
Let loose what will not stir
by day, the forager
of what in quiet rises.

Appeared in Leightty’s second chapbook, Civility at the Flood Wall (Robert L. Barth, 2002), and in Legal Studies Forum.


                        At Taylorsville and Hurstbourne,
                        the source of Beargrass Creek, South Branch

Rain squalls scud through the city—soddening,
In from the southwest; waters drain
Deep through the chambered sub-terrain
Pooling from time's dark in this tiny spring:
Cool, clear—too true a bounty to contain.
The office tower, the house, the city street—
These cannot squelch the age-old flow.
This springhouse still protects
As pioneers intended, though the beat
Where thronging traffic intersects
Strikes an incongruous tableau.
The streamlet, dense with watercress,
Meanders neighborhoods, its weed-grown banks
The haunt of muskrats, possums, waterfowl—
The irrepressible wilderness;
Then riprapped, slicked black, rank,
Runs channeled past the shopping malls;
Dug from the ancient watershed
That years past shaped the city's spread;
Straightened through downtown between concrete walls.
Forever, the winds and waters on the land.
One measure of a city's grace
Rests in how these trends reconcile:
The human, temporal; the eternal, wild;
The elements and our command;
Mystery's life in civil space.

Appeared in Phase and Cycle and in Leightty’s second chapbook, Civility at the Flood Wall (Robert L. Barth, 2002).

            The Louisville waterfront
            viewed from the Ohio River
Design and skill slipped us on evening's breeze.
Where fitful commerce bridged eternal flow
We gazed at downtown from Bob's sloop, recalling
Nights when the moon rippled with city lights.
Downstream, the Falls—an ancient hindrance cleft
In bedrock; cause for human settlement
Years gone, when river traffic paused to pass
Impediment from time's pre-human depth.
Geography has grown superfluous;
Yet an uneasy overlap of town
And river shows in flood walls, channels, locks—
Human devices edged on wilderness.
Falcons nest high in one bridge; and wind blows
From westward with clear weather, or with rain
These buildings shed to ground—which takes it, holds,
And pools to rivers where great cities stand.

On Bob's well-crafted boat, a wine glass held

For admiration kept the skyline's curve

Refracted, the chardonnay a civil drink

In civil hands; human vintage of earth.

Appeared in Blue Unicorn and in Leightty’s second chapbook, Civility at the Flood Wall (Robert L. Barth, 2002).