Back to Issue Twenty-Six.

Failed Attempts at Explanation



I should confess none of this:
that dog in blood on the curb
won’t know an afterlife. Perhaps,
this one, such as it is, will be
enough. But it won’t be.
In the night, in that benign darkness,
I sing what I’m not able
to bear. You left me, old love,
in Tulsa. I dream of rain
and animal grief and my arms,
which themselves dream
of other, unknowable lives.
A forgettable career
lifting onerous weight.
Aesthetically pleasing musculature.
I have never been here. Not before.
I spent hours learning
secret handshakes and regions
of the map which show
nothing here of worth or interest
or life. I am dying,
I think. I am hungry.
I want to go home. What
is open, at this hour,
in this small place
of the sad world? What is
burning down and
what is so sweet? What aches
like a sick tooth
in your mouth, planet Earth?
Go slow, sun and moon,
go slow. Give me this
hour. This dance. That bird screaming


Paul Guest is the author of four collections of poetry and one memoir. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and the recipient of a Whiting Award. His poems have appeared in Poetry, the Southern Review, the Paris Review, the Kenyon Review, Tin House, and elsewhere. He teaches in the Creative Writing program at the University of Virginia, and lives in Charlottesville.

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