Poem of the Week | July 16, 2013

This week we’re featuring a wrecking ball of a poem by Aaron Baker from our hot-off-the-press spanking-new summer issue, 36.2. Baker’s first collection of poems, Mission Work (Houghton Mifflin 2008), won the Bakeless Prize in Poetry and the 2009 Glasgow/Shenandoah Prize for Emerging Writers. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, he received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Virginia. He has been awarded fellowships by the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and has published work in numerous literary journals, including Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, New England Review, and Post Road.  He is an Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing program at Loyola University Chicago.

Author’s Note:

My first collection dealt fairly directly with my experiences as a child of missionaries, but my newer work—while it does revisit some of those earlier subjects and themes—has more to do with my thoughts, feelings, attitudes, etc.  about things beside my own childhood.  Many of the new poems in the book in progress (titled Posthumous Noon)  deal with my father’s death. These are elegies and so difficult to write for a number of reasons. One thing I’ve found myself doing, and I think that some of the poems this batch reflect that, is to write about my father by writing about the physical environments I mostly strongly associate with him—the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.

Dark Matter

We say the heart is sick, meaning something else.
But when we say the body is broken, and it is, the poem,
like a great engine long given up to the weather,
begins to move. Outside, fireweed among the ruins.
We’ve known the seed of failure in action,
how the worm turns on the root, the foredetermined
uncoiling of the double arms into an electric fizz
and last black sputter of cosmic flatulence. Dark matter:
you take the air. I kick the walls, answer the accusations
to an empty room, then sit down to sob amidst the bones.
It starts to rain. You’re elsewhere. Curse god
and die. We grow artful when evil, and broken, take
on the utmost of our powers. The garden withers
with such August, but its energy flows inward and flowers.