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Adam Tavel

About the Poet

Adam Tavel won the inaugural Permafrost Book Prize for his collection Plash & Levitation, which was published by the University of Alaska Press.

He is also the author of The Fawn Abyss (Salmon Poetry, forthcoming) and the chapbook Red Flag Up (Kattywompus).

Tavel won the 2010 Robert Frost Award and his recent poems appear or will soon appear in Beloit Poetry Journal, Sycamore Review, The Journal, Passages North, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review and Salamander, among others.

He is an associate professor of English at Wor-Wic Community College. You can find him online at


Spring 2015SSpring 2015 Poems ~
The Moss Mound King

Behind my hiding oak I watch him break
our sparring off with deadfall swords to crouch
upon the mossy mound as if to wake
that shriveled browning husk, aslant and couched
inside the ditch. Alone on New Year’s Day
I dragged it while he napped, its needles cast
along the zigzag bramble trail I made
to rid us of the mess. Tinsel blasted
mercurial in January sun.
The boy-king reaches for it now to run
his fingers through its drooping tendriled harp.
I cannot hear the threnody he sings
that sour-sobs his face before he darts
into the grave to hug its lancing sting.



Elegy for the Wind-Up Shepherd Boy My Mother Played That Now Sits Decapitated in My Sons’ Nursery

Infant music twinkles out the shard-shaft
that once held up your head. How could I know
the neck that drooped your doze was brittle-thin
ceramic that no longer could sustain
my dust rag’s swipe? Your meadow overalls
blanch by open blinds as if to match
the stems of bowed chrysanthemums that sag
beneath our window ledge. A cherubic lamb
nestles in the slender crook your arm makes.
Pup-faced, he cocks his ear to slowing notes
conjuring the lone legato dream
that paints his lids. Damn it, boy, my glue
won’t hold. Its snotty goop just gums the jag
of throat that spurs your tune to flood the room.



An Athenian Shepherd Recounts the Death of Pheidippides

Swollen, indigo, his rotten turnip knees
bulged their sickly slosh above his tinder-
thin fibulae as with a wail he unfolded
from our country’s scatter-rock. My crook
crutched his limping cubits beyond my lea
until he pitched upon the Athens road.
I wish some crumb, nubbin sprout or cinder
of speech moved his lips after I forsook
the little pond dammed inside my water-skin.
But nothing—a gag, a gurgle, my bleating
ram hoofing at the clay-crop. I forbade
the moon to steal my flock. My heels bleeding,
the gate guards read the crush his armor made
crumpled across my arms as victory.



Adam Tavel ~


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