Poem of the Week | October 19, 2015

This week we’re delighted to feature a poem from our new fall Out of This World issue, 38.3. Noah Warren was born in Nova Scotia. His book The Destroyer in the Glass was chosen by Carl Phillips for the 2015 Yale Series of Younger Poets and is forthcoming in April 2016. His work has appeared in The Yale Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, Poetry Daily, and AGNI. He lives in Palo Alto, where he is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.
Author’s note:

“Milkweed” is, I think, a poem about materials and materiality–that is to say, what we’re made out of, and what whatever we make is made out of. I had been thinking a lot about the pathetic fallacy when I wrote it, and about how imposing a certain humanity on insentient nature can, paradoxically, help one to really feel the kind of cruelty, and damage, that drifts around us daily. At the heart of the poem is a version–cryptic–of the mock execution Dostoyevsky was put through in 1849, when a note arrived commuting his death sentence as he was hooded before the firing squad. Though the monarch in that case–Nicholas–was the agent of a great cruelty, the monarchs of our world are, of course, tiny errant things in the process of vanishing.




The summer morning,
the exploding front, the rain
a wall falling—


glass, the skylight aches;
bitter thunder grinds;
and the thin leaves,
the tender skin
of the clearing,


shake in seizure—


One stalk of milkweed
jerks left and right, is twisted
down, blown
upright, bitten, blind thing, on and on,
by the swarm of bullets:
then in the lull
he sways.


In his pods,
molecule by molecule, smoke-
colored silk


the only food
of the monarchs,
wandering rags.