Blake Campbell was born in northeastern Pennsylvania and now lives in Salem,
Massachusetts. He is the recipient of the 2015 Academy of American Poets College
Poetry Prize for Emerson College, and his poem “Bioluminescence” won the 2015
Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award from the Academy of
American Poets. His work has appeared in the Emerson Review, The Road Not Taken:
A Journal of Formal Poetry, and Hawk & Whippoorwill. His chapbook
Creek is forthcoming from Pen and Anvil Press.
And he entered, great spelunker,
the resonant and ancient darkness,
that empty ventricle keeping
the earth’s heart beating with the silent calls
of bats, their acrid guano blanketing
the cold, stone floor.
Such hollowness, so far beneath the surface,
and yet the sunlit world still stepping
to more infectious rhythms up above
never once tempted him with its pulsations—
that was a land of prattle, and light so bright
it blotted out the rarer glows he sought.
On he walked, no flashlight in his hand.
He closed his eyes, preferring
a darkness of his own to the black
of that slick gullet, the cave he could not stop
from swallowing him. Soon he reached the room
where glowworms dangled sticky threads
to catch unwary insects. They taunted his shut eyes
with hints of incandescence.
He shivered in the dampness of that space,
but in the end,
it was easy for him to slide his eyes awake
in the dark and empty cavern
and count the living stars upon the walls.
Originally published on poets.org (September 2015)
Across the Creek
We’ve found the forest no more destitute
For summer’s end. The birch’s leaves flavesce
And fall with their expected loveliness
On death-white mushrooms clustered at its root.
I grasp an oak, long felled, by one tough knot
And overturn it. Salamanders squirm,
Glistening, over moldered wood. An earthworm
Startles and retreats into the rot.
Our sojourns here remind us not to search
For resurrections. Even after frost
The sleeping earth retains her tiny lives,
And even stripped of leaves, the paper birch
Subsists on what has been and what is lost,
But what in other living things survives.
Originally published in The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry (Summer
In the Courtyard
Shielded from winter
in a hothouse of opulence,
a minor Eden stretches at our feet.
Glass panels overhead admit
the midday January light,
feeding the fiddle—no,
celloheads of giant tree ferns
unfurling into fronds.
Pieces of antiquity
—stone fish, mosaics, marble limbs—
sit nakedly among new growth,
a carpet of green. Come April,
I tell you, nasturtium
will pour from the balconies
in cascades of flame. Photos
aren’t permitted up there,
where restored portraiture preserves
the looks of another age. Here,
the brightest colors come
from potted orchids your hand
grazes as we pass,
orchids with petals
like pink Rorschach ink blots
on flesh-white paper,
orchids with purple freckles
shaped like the tiny doves
that spill from a shattered sand dollar.
These flowers unfold as if inked to
extract, reshape, and craze
the substance of our brains
into symmetries, blurred but familiar,
which by their very opening
defy the unabating cold outside.
Originally published in the Emerson Review (Spring 2018)