Poem of the Week | April 10, 2017


By Leanna Petronella

This week, we are excited to offer a new poem by John Blair. Blair has published three prize-winning books of poetry, Playful Song Called Beautiful (winner of the Iowa Poetry Award, published Spring of 2016), The Occasions of Paradise (U. Tampa Press 2012), and The Green Girls (LSU Press/Pleiades Press 2003). His short story collection, American Standard, was the 2002 winner of the Drue Heinz Literature prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. He also has two novels from Ballantine/Del Rey, as well as poems and stories in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, The Sewanee Review, The Antioch Review, New Letters, and elsewhere. He is a professor in the English department at Texas State University, where he directs the undergraduate creative writing program.

Author’s note:

As I’ve left behind the first half-century of my life, I have—much to my own surprise—become both a religious poet and a formalist, writing either in Romance forms, or, as with this poem, in strings of syllabically structured pseudo-haiku. As in many poems, religious or not, the idea of “What Gets Taken” is the loss of things, the ineluctable stripping away of all the crumbs and miscellany by which we know and define ourselves. In it, my Buddhist leanings and my Protestant past bump and merge finally into the Good Word of immanence.

What Gets Taken

Is almost always
small potatoes. The warm fog
of fetal vagueness.
Foreskin next, if you
happen to have one. Little
end that goes before,
torque of poor design
that God himself so despised
that he came burning
unchained down to slay
his own prophet when Moses
left a son uncut.
Then childhood, damp with
tommyrot and wasted time.
All the usual
renderings unto.
A hymen if you’ve got one.
The name your mama
gave you that no one
but your mama knew, sweet-tea
lying the way that
mamas always do.
You plant the earth with little
losses to see what
little grows. They’ll bloom
in the warm sunlight into
beautiful things that
anyone might stoop
and tenderly take.