William Stobb


At the bench along the marsh by the munitions bunker,
boarded-up nature center and Catholic cemetery
there’s noise in the air—traffic and birds—
call it pollution or call it singing.

In an afternoon lecture on anti-
anti-pornography feminism,
I learned one re-enlightenment protocol
affirms even the brutal orgies of de Sade
over the endless expansion of particles to void.

Here’s a tipped-over heron sculpture
on an overgrown patio where the band once played
featuring the local singer who appeared on TV.
We danced with a sense of imminent arrival
but when the marsh ice vanishes and the winter count
of dead fish surfaces, we’ll smell
the relevant processes in action.

Carp don’t leave monuments, as far as I know.
And although the President’s planning
to wall us in I think it’s comforting to remember
that geology shrugs off all insults in time.

In the houses around the park, kids hide
in basements—it’s hard to blame them—
connecting across continents to save a world
that matters to them from those persistent dead,
always coming back, always famished.



A Brief Interruption

                    Antagonized by a nemesis?
Consumed by revenge fantasies?
Before committing any felonies
breathe. Count to ten. Remember:
everyone shares a point of origin
in the big bang, best conceptualized
by our local remnant ember
the sun—
                    take a moment now
to frame that burning orb
at the center of your mind: a giant orange
of intensely gravitational electro-nuclear fire—
how hot is that bastard? you might wonder
& I checked: twenty-seven
million degrees at the core but more
approachable at the surface where swiping
storm flares manage only four million
though they threaten to expand
and may ultimately swallow our system
in fire before sucking back (with a tiny pop?)
into a pinhole spiked through
the fabric of this big old sweater we
call the universe—
                              you may recall being
outside at night with old friends by a fire
listening to music & also talking
about families & dream jobs & favorite
ballplayers & problem behaviors you’re trying to
reign in because you want to get it
right in this life & you’re grateful
for these friendships: real
good things you can feel & just then
                              the fire snaps
& you watch a bright spark
shoot up & hover in the thermal pressure
& you say it’s like the sun & imagine it
fueling every single human thing
that ever occurred in history, spinning & floating
—it’s beautiful, right? with some pine trees
& every epic love lynching war masterpiece
gift theft disease attack slightest
gesture of kindness like her glance and
hand coming to rest on your shoulder
all provided by the spark
until it blinks out & zip, everything
stops & there’s only a density of
absence retaining zero
evidence of histories personal
slights political failures just
no life okay
                    thank you
we can be done now it’s
impossible anyway to imagine the nothing
ahead the massive fragility of our speck in this
exploding second I’m sorry
this was only an interruption
like an advertisement
for the original heat & light
that sponsored all life.


William Stobb is the author of five poetry collections, including the National Poetry Series Selection, Nervous Systems. He works on the editorial staff of Conduit, chairs the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, and teaches at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.