This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Gregory Fraser. Fraser is the author of Strange Pietà (Texas Tech), Answering the Ruins and Designed for Flight (Northwestern). The recipient of grants from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation, he teaches at the University of West Georgia.
Recently I have been writing poems that center on immigration, otherness, cultural difference, and violence. I have been reading masters such as Sándor Csoóri, Miklós Radnóti, and Nina Cassian. In the summer of 2015, I flew with a colleague to Nicaragua to interview Claribel Alegría, then ninety-one years old, for a feature on her in the Birmingham Poetry Review. Studying her writing, investigating the ways in which she grapples with the madness of history and the terror of us-them logics, I cobbled together a series of poems that address similar concerns. “Like Angels” emerged from those experiments.
We pitied the tiny evenings of our enemies,
who knew nothing of celebrations or lust, pitied
the milk they drank, giving off its sick blue light,
and all their skeletal days stripped naked,
like prisoners of war, soon to be marched
out of time. We did admire their flowery hills
and wispy, insouciant clouds, and their cheeses
could be stomached with dense rye bread,
but we pitied their long afternoons collapsing
without a fight at dusk, their songbirds tuned
to Fb minor, windows rarely glazed with frost.
In time, our pity grew profound, weighty enough
to suggest a burden, which naturally we needed
to purge. We gave our sweethearts kisses
you could found a marriage on but didn’t,
knowing the perils ahead, then slept more
deeply than ever, like angels exhausted
by perfection and eternal life. First light,
we gathered on the bank to check our gear.
A few faint stars still hung, to which none
of us gave notice. They could have been the last
fragments of God for all we knew or cared.
That hour, we were focused on erasure, nothing more,
on the bloodless, sinewy meats those heathens chewed.