Poems of the Week – William Aberg


For V. Shalamov

Lacing my boots
on the barracks steps
near the end of a sleepless
Siberian night, I look up

in time to see
a shooting star vanish
in an orange shower of sparks.

Another light
gone, another thing
that will never again challenge
my certainty of the dark.

Philosophies of the Dusk

Some keep their lamps burning
all night, fueled
by the red oil of nerves
and insomnia: theirs
is the desire to keep things
visible, where
they can be named
or avoided. My room is

not one of those. I like
the dusk. To look
at the pile of clothes
lying on my bed
and think, It could be
a woman there
sleeping. Or to look
at the woman
sleeping there
and think, It could be
dirty laundry I left
on the bed. A lamp

can prove things, dispel
myth. I prefer
the suggestions of the twilight
through the window, the play
of shadows and sky,
the door to the theatre
of possibilities
which awaits only dark to define it.


The blackberries hung blood dark
from the vines near Foxhill Lake, our fingers
stained from the pints we plucked and brought
Mrs. Gill, who cooked them
to a thick jam she gave
everyone she liked. And sometimes
Sarah, five years
older than I, but slow,
would pull me by the hand
up the bare pine steps to her room,
lock the door, and undress for me
slowly to her white slip
and brassiere, standing warm
in the bright squares of windowlight,
lifting my hands to her face
and breast. Mornings, I’d watch her
board a yellow bus, shorter than mine,
for a special school
outside town. But she could
pick berries, run, and smile
more quickly than I,
and if she spoke or thought
more slowly, it was still
in the same language,
and those of us who knew her
listened, because
she was one of us, awake and alive.

* all poems from The Listening Chamber, The University of Arkansas Press, 1997.

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