Oops, it looks as if I've missed the poem-of-the-month for a few months! My apologies. I have a few excuses: I've been writing a ton of other stuff besides poetry (short stories and academic articles); the poems I have written are either too personal or too disturbing to publish here (I know, tantalizing, huh?); and I've been dedicating a pile of time to the new interview series. So even this poem is an old one I've dug out of my files. Sorry.
But April is Poetry Month, and so I'm taking on a challenge: Write one poem a day for the entire month! This is for a a contest sponsored by Writer's Digest; there will be a prompt for each day. Why don't you try it, too?
Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, Oxford University
Follow these spiral steps,
connected, rung by rung, logical
chain of well-wrought iron flats, rational
handrails cold and artful in a downward helix.
Come, aware, into another room of consciousness.
It’s quieter here than out where senses
cower under the chaos of physical streets.
There’s less to feel, and what’s to see
striated horizontal on the perimeter of thought:
staves in motionless progress rake the walls,
make inaudible meaning while the sight
circles, fascinated, seeking the conclusion of these shelves.
But beware synthetic knowledge: one book
(ascetic contemplative in paper brown)
unhooked from its nestled hush
is thesis: offers its neighbor in antithesis
who pulls another by the cover
until hand-over-hand the hypothetical unity revolves.
You cannot take Making Shakespeare from the shelf
without its dragging the authority of King James and his
superstitious witchcraft tract, which clings to Scott
(that’s Reginald) and Miller (Arthur, Crucible),
which dumps a chunk of history
from Salem to McCarthy on your head, and then you have to know
the Lord’s Prayer and the devil’s mass, and Latin, and some
cures for warts, and the script
a college prof. began for trying audiences
as a witch’s jury, and soon
you’re searching for quotations about “mandrake root”
then you’re on the stage and in the noose
the chamber’s cataloged diameter goes into orbit,
creates a universe complete with rings and atmosphere,
with cyclic seasons and with gravitational appeal
where a single thinker is a satellite—
As if one newborn scholar could endure
the velocity of thought;
as if one human psyche could survive
the spatial ecstasy of synthesis.