Poem of the Week | August 03, 2017

This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Paul Nemser. Nemser’s Taurus (New American Press 2013) won the New American Poetry Prize, and his chapbook of prose poems Tales of the Tetragrammaton (Mayapple Press) followed in the next year. His poem “After the Calm” was Commended in the UK National Poetry Competition and was made into a short film available on the website of The Poetry Society of the UK. His poems have been published widely in journals and anthologies, among them AGNI, London Review of Books, and Poetry. Poems are forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, The Massachusetts Review, and Plume. He lives with his wife Rebecca in Cambridge, MA, and Harborside, ME.



And my mouth overflowed with yogurt and minted honey.
But then a future came:


trees falling on streetcorners and on the schools,
salmon-crushing trees in heavy seas.


Postures of dislocation, despair, immolation.
The burning of bonds to free my heart into the air,
a red powder and a blue and a yellow.


Mazes made from the flight of sparrows
out of sharp, falling branches.


I counted backward through the rooms of the tall building
where daily I’d skittered, hoarding and lizarding.


I removed my neck from the subway tracks
because the train was never coming because the tunnels
overflowed—milk and slow nectars had swallowed the wheels—


and I could see beyond the platform the trees on fire
that broke open the windows, the order
of things—trunk halves, root casings, phloem.


And a rain ran wild with open eyes.


Author’s Note:

On the subway, riding into work and scrolling through the news, I looked up to see all the people carrying yoga mats.  When I looked back down at my iPad, I started writing.  In yoga, a drishti is the focal point to which one should turn one’s gaze while in a pose, and my poem “Drishti” asks “To what should I turn my gaze?” Toward a sometimes apocalyptic outer world or a sometimes volcanic inner life?  If I gaze outward, won’t that change me inside?  Can looking inward change the world? In the throes of this dialectical apparatus, where might I look for “enlightenment”?

The poem ends, “And a rain ran wild with open eyes.”  The enlightenment envisioned, or the madness evoked, is a sense that everything is looking at me and I am looking at everything—seeing and being seen, completely.