April 22, 2014

On winter’s long red-eye out of Anchorage, small lamps

near the floor made

a grainy blurry everything, which meant

awake, then almost, then heads slipping back

or to the side, mouths jarred open.

There are words

bodies vanish to–curved, slumped, relaxed, released.

And a sound, not the underwater lament of the whale, not its

distant me to you, don’t even imagine.

I heard no sad rattle

from the human throat, only the loose tic and tic of it, seats 3A

to 10C, at last the whole cabin caught

in night’s breathing, a dark sandpaper at work, stopped,

to start again.


The fact is I walked through an underworld, that aisle–

I was up, had to–and saw in the dim

not-yet-dawn the arms

and legs of Shiloh and Gettysburg flung

every which way.

Then past that easy horrific–

those strangers merely out, gone out,

curled to each other: love

in the abstract, love

how it never comes on purpose,

no one arranging a face to please or to frighten

into love, just a simple forgetting who

is who and if ever.  Like children don’t know the most

troubling thing about themselves, won’t

for years. Or like the dead who could, but can’t tell you.


For once I stared everyone right

in the face like it was

my shroud, and my leaving.  I keep thinking like.

But my same nothing at all had so little

to do with it, that

one time my grandmother didn’t say

where we walked, took,

I was taken, thrust forward to meet the old

blind woman, her hands to find

me in that child, the great length and breadth of her bent

as if to some odd-angled stone on a beach

so foreign, so much a place I’d never go, her barest

touch on my cheek coming

such a long way,

to my chin and lips, the ridge of my nose, my

closed eyes.  I opened them

to her face.  Most private part of the body now, hugely

calm, the kind that suspends

and lets go, her eyes

blue in their milky drift regardless, looking

not anywhere or straight into, this–

no end to it, flying over a continent of

ice and sleep and ruin and light.


-Marianne Boruch

from the author’s book, Cadaver, Speak (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)


mboruch, photo #3

Marianne Boruch’s 8th book of poems—Cadaver, Speak—is just out from Copper Canyon Press (2014) and includes the poem “Face” posted here, and her memoir, The Glimpse Traveler, was published in 2011 by IU Press. She founded the MFA Program at Purdue University in West Lafayette where she continues to teach.

Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem from an Indiana poet every day in April (hand-selected by Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras). Check in daily to see who is featured next!

Posted In: Poetry

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