Today's poems are by Mark Irwin


A small word with no end to it and a wind
that continues into another country.
A word that takes on a different meaning
after someone dies, a word that has a strange
engine that says, "Continue," but then continues
not to move as if burdened with its own
command, a breath that is all exhale. Once
in dream I was sent to the country of GO
with a message for the king who was dying
but seemed to understand, except that he was
unable to reply, then it turned out he
wasn't really a king after all, just a man,
and all the time I was hoping he would say
something like GO FORTH, which sounds kind of
cheery before you start to think about it. The
question now's not so much how to reconstruct
our lives, but how to stop the word that almost gets
to God before it's really gone. The word has
a hollow noise, an otherness beyond. So
what do we do? Does one simply
say, "Now, now," like firing blanks into eternity.


for Willis Barnstone

When we arrived from that world of 30,000 sleeps, some
who had forgotten asked how it was,

and moved by their pleas I replied. There
we wore suits of flesh, and with these
thought we loved, sometimes
pairing off for a life.

There, some of us prayed, others made art, but most
bought and sold things over and over
as if we were building

something. And every day there was either a lottery,
or a sacrifice gleaming red on
a hill while others watched
in joy or fear.

There was a place with wide, palm-lined avenues
and casinos on either side where people
bet on wheels, cards, dice, which made them feel
alive and what they thought was happy.

I said that in spring, marveling at the green earth
and wet air, we made excited sounds with our red tongues and polished language
like so many twittering birds, except that we
were unable to lift our bodies.

I said that we were a small, blue-green planet, a chrysalis
turning gray and brown, hung from a galaxy's
lit-arm, and that when you wake up
you would be here.

Copyright © 2004 Mark Irwin All rights reserved
from New Letters
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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