James Arthur

Against Emptiness

Denser than a dog. Volatile
like a torpedo, harder than a punch line
and more foreseeable. Are these the days
of easy praise? A man strays through humid roses,

watching garden-goers gaze. More
than you imagine, less than he thinks, inkier
than a printmaker’s fingerprints. Nothing
will come of nothing, someone once said.

The first poem I wrote, I wrote for a girl,
knowing for certain what I meant. More intertwining
than a Celtic knot. More beseeching
than a forget-me-not. More far-reaching

and daring, more engaged
with the world. Can a man build a tower
out of air alone? He can. And the wind
will blow it away.

James Arthur has received the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, and a Discovery/The Nation Prize. His first book, Charms Against Lightning, will soon be published by Copper Canyon Press.