Christian Wiman • Two Poems

Keynote


I had a dream of Elks,
antlerless but arousable all the same,

before whom I proclaimed the Void
and its paradoxical intoxicating joy,

infinities of fields our very natures
commanded us to cross,

the Sisyphean satisfaction of a landscape
adequate to loss—

and as I spoke inspired
farther and farther afield from my notes

I saw James Wesson whiten
to intact ash

big-boned Joe Sloane shrivelcrippled
tight as tumbleweed

I saw wren-souled Mary Flynn die again
in Buzz’s eyes

I saw
I saw

like a huge claw time tear through the iron
armory and the baseball fields

the slush-puppy stand
the little pier at Towle Park Pond

until I stood strangered
before the living staring Godfearing men

who knew me when.

Razing a Tower


Once in the west I rose to witness
the cleverest devastation.
It was early but I was late
and the quiet into which I crept—

nightshifters, gin-veined men,
a stare with a burn scar and a rosary—
was intimate, inviolate, tribal.
I didn’t so much keep it as was kept.

A whisper-rupture, feathery detonation,
last concussive flush of a great heart giving way
and all the outworn stories collapsed
in a kind of apocalyptic plié.

Vanish the dancer and the dance remains
a time, an agile absence on the air.
I cannot say what, or why, or even when it was.
I only know it happened, and I was there.

Christian Wiman’s new book of poems, Once in the West, will be published in September.