64 Parishes

Poetry by Brad Richard

Selected by Louisiana Poet Laureate Alison Pelegrin

Published: February 29, 2024
Last Updated: June 1, 2024

Poetry by Brad Richard
Brad Richard is one of the wisest and most disciplined poets I know, and it is my honor to share with you the world of his poems. He reminds me that, no matter what, there is always poetry—what can we do but witness it, say it, write it down? If ever you are overwhelmed by the noise of the world, just remember these lines from “Navigations”:  “Well, here we are. Let the record show/ our wreckage reflected the stars.” Whatever you are looking for, poetry can show the way.


The Gardener (II)

My grandmother laughed when I’d squat

while playing in the yard, poking a spoon


at the dirt, a little prissy as I plucked

fleabane’s puny starburst blooms


to decorate graves I dug for pill bugs

whose armor coiled shut when my fingertip


pushed them under. They opened,

hauled themselves out. I wiped


my fingers on the grass. Hours later,

the smell of earth (or was it me?) lingered.


My husband laughs when I come in for lunch,

boots muddy, knees caked, face smudged,


babbling—fritillaries! carpenter bees!

and we need more bags of soil


for the white sage and salvias I’ll plant.

“Boots by the door, clothes by the washer,”


he says, ladling out bowls of gumbo.

I kiss his neck, inhale his spice, and again


fleabane’s blooms turn to white-tufted globes

my breath blows bare.



Surveying the porch tonight, I mark an aloe, an ivy,

old junk mail on a table, and wind chimes

fallen in a corner. Also, over my left shoulder,


a waning gibbous moon, and, south of my big toe,

the river that carried Huck and Jim, at this moment

gushing our homeland’s toxins into the oily Gulf


while this story lights up my phone: a skeleton’s

been extracted from the Antikythera shipwreck,

bones that might have belonged to the maker


of the first analog computer, a bronze orrery,

gears corroded, its two hundred teeth stuck

after two millennia beneath the Aegean.


It tracked the sun and moon into the future.

Well, here we are. Let the record show

our wreckage reflected the stars.



I don’t believe in ghosts, haven’t seen one

since I was three, peering over my bed’s edge,


light from Mom’s sewing room across the hall

catching the heavy shoes and taupe legs


of the woman who used to own our rented house.

I wasn’t scared, didn’t even think to question


why her legs were close enough to touch

while the rest of her lay under my bed


or somewhere else. I never told.

Mom’s Singer rattled and throbbed,


paused, rattled and throbbed, and I fell

into sleep and woke up here, grown old,


mother gone, grandparents, too many friends,

and the boy still there, safe in that light.


Brad Richard’s fifth poetry collection, Turned Earth, is forthcoming from LSU Press in spring 2025. Other publications include Motion Studies, Butcher’s Sugar, and Parasite Kingdom, and the chapbook In Place. Series editor of The Word Works’s Hilary Tham Capital Collection, Richard lives, writes, gardens, and occasionally teaches in New Orleans. More at bradrichard.org.