May 24, 2010

Why He Doesn't Keep a Journal

by Christian Wiman

In the dream he burns his journals one by one
because the fire is fading, because the fire is there.
The first is full of days
he doesn’t remember, a sudden furious blaze
scorching his hair and driving him back.
Impressive, but brief.
The second’s better, himself at twenty turning into flames
that at the time he’d tried to be,
a decade later, and dazed
less by loss than by what he’s simply given away:
cities, friendships flickering as he says their names
with what could be joy, could be grief.
By the third he’s learned
to hold a moment as it goes, to lean into this burn
while the flames toss
and taunt the darkness, which recedes, and waits, and gathers,
             and rushes back in like a wave.
Now the loss is truly loss.
By the fourth there’s not one page he doesn’t hear,
not one word he doesn’t bear
as it adds its vanishing to that roar
with its own tiny cry that could be pain, could be praise.
Ash of childhood, ash of accomplishment,
love in the air like ash,
on and on and on,
everything’s in them and everything’s gone.
Now the fire once again begins to die.
In the dream this must not happen.
In the dream he knows why.
There’s just one more,
completely blank, its cover black,
which he’s never had a reason for
but always thought he might need,
carrying it around the world to pack and unpack
a thousand times in a thousand rooms
like a little portable grave.
Was it something in this one book that would not suffer words,
or something in himself no word would save?
No time, no time. He throws it in,
and what happens next happens again and again,
a thousand times in a thousand ways:
he looks dead into the fire that feeds on nothing,
and nothing stays.

May 12, 2010

Here I Am, Lord

by Michael Chitwood

The ribbed black of the umbrella
is an argument for the existence of God,

that little shelter
we carry with us

and may forget
beside a chair

in a committee meeting
we did not especially want to attend.

What a beautiful word, umbrella.
A shade to be opened.

Like a bat’s wing, scalloped.
It shivers.

A drum head
beaten by the silver sticks

of rain
and I do not have mine

and so the rain showers me.

May 08, 2010


by Sylvia Plath

For Ruth Fainlight

I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root:
It is what you fear.
I do not fear it: I have been there.

Is it the sea you hear in me,
Its dissatisfactions?
Or the voice of nothing, that was your madness?

Love is a shadow.
How you lie and cry after it
Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse.

All night I shall gallop thus, impetuously,
Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf,
Echoing, echoing.

Or shall I bring you the sound of poisons?
This is rain now, this big hush.
And this is the fruit of it: tin-white, like arsenic.

I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.
Scorched to the root
My red filaments burn and stand, a hand of wires.

Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs.
A wind of such violence
Will tolerate no bystanding: I must shriek.

The moon, also, is merciless: she would drag me
Cruelly, being barren.
Her radiance scathes me. Or perhaps I have caught her.

I let her go. I let her go
Diminished and flat, as after radical surgery.
How your bad dreams possess and endow me.

I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

Clouds pass and disperse.
Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?
Is it for such I agitate my heart?

I am incapable of more knowledge.
What is this, this face
So murderous in its strangle of branches?——

Its snaky acids kiss.
It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults
That kill, that kill, that kill.