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In My Solitude
There is so much to say of love.

The high, tiptoeing piano notes
dancing round her, head down,
then to look up with those eyes—

the way light on railroad tracks at night
gives itself to you, even as it stays
upon the rails, chained to the cold steel

horizon—and pronounce a perfect syllable
faceted and polished from every side.
The way, physicists say, our lives require

ten dimensions for one plus one
to equal two, or one, or even three,
or none, for the poplar trees to rise,

to root in winter sky, pulse the summer dirt,
for the battered tripe to fry,
for a young woman to come home from the fair

sweet talked over and knocked up
by a jazz man, and then for Billie to be there
standing beside the Victrola in Alice Dean’s

goodtiming house, singing along
with Bessie Smith, as the other girls danced
and squatted down, no hands,

over coffee table corners, to pick up tips.
Once you’ve heard the softness, the sheets
of moonlight gathered off the river,
what does it mean to read she was raped
by a neighbor when she was eleven?
where does that act, that fact

occur—as if it could be transferred,
or quarantined, contained within
a distinct moment, with a start and end

in time.  As if it were not still happening:
the folds gathering themselves up
the well drilled through her into the water table

of sorrow, every time somewhere in a café
behind the curtains of everyday
conversation—knives and forks dropped

rattling, silver, against cups and plates
in rubber dish tubs—someone hears, on a stereo,
pushed through a speaker, a note of her voice.

As if the girl were not right then unspeakable
inside the sheets of moonlight stripped off
the river (the ache in shine, the shining ache)

gathered up off the streets, and sent forward–
with head down, then looking up—
to you.  And you.  And you.  Like the signals

we send year after year into space,
traveling from one empty planet to the next.
pearled ivory sole-taps stepping across the dark

for whoever is out there to hear.


American Mystic

I stood with my dad at the edge of the woods.
Can you see already that it is night?
The forest behind our house humming with moths

like an army yet to be summoned.
I can’t remember a single word we said,
or what constellation of big ideas I might have been

bent upon connecting, until one moment
when the conversation paused, or turned,
and our attention returned, like a breath

to the bulls-eye where we stood,
the last blab of pave, the final capillary
that dropped down from a tiny feeder road

called Pine Cone Circle and joined up eventually
with all the rig-swept interstates and big boxes
glittering somewhere in the night, each porchlit address.

Above us, a light in the second storey window
where my mom must have been up late reading.
“This,” he said, and I knew at once

that he meant all of it, the black Honda Accord
parked a few feet away, as much as the starlight
filtering through the lace of poplars and pines

that fanned above the driveway; the vast and intricate array
of distant, throbbing cities no more or less 
than the tiny, folded wings of my sister asleep.
“This”— he said it only once; a twin engine plane
was passing overhead, dragging its tail
a red blinking light among the pond of stars—

“is the event of God.”  And, all at once,
I disappeared, and every noun became a verb
that fused into a single flame 

burning absurdly bright and without cause,
with the now just uttered awe
of pure-impossible-thus-God 

and we were standing there, one bankless blaze
my dad in me, and I in him;
in the center, in the heart, in the muscle, in the meat:

Never, Never, Nothing, Now.  


Sam Taylor is the author of two books of poems, Body of the World (Ausable/Copper Canyon) and the forthcoming Nude Descending an Empire (Pitt Poetry Series, Fall 2014).  Body of the World explores the perennial themes of mysticism—of the world as the self—and wrestles with the suffering that a unitary vision of the divine must subsume.  Nude Descending an Empire develops the lyrical voice of a citizen-poet speaking into history and our contemporary moment.  He is an assistant professor in the MFA program at Wichita State University.  Read more at www.samtaylor.us.