"The Age"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
March 24 2009 7:04 AM

"The Age"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Gail Mazur read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes..

For what seemed an infinite time there were nights
that were too long. We knew a little science, not enough,

some cosmology. We'd heard of dark matter, we'd been assured
although it's everywhere, it doesn't collide, it will never slam

into our planet, it somehow obeys a gentler law of gravity,
its particles move through each other. We'd begun to understand

it shouldn't frighten us that we were the universe's debris,
or that when we look up at the stars, we're really looking back.

It was hard to like what we knew. We wanted to live
in the present, but it was dark. Ignorance

was one of our consolations. The universe was expanding
at an accelerating rate, we'd been told we were not at its center,

that it had no center. And how look forward with hope,
if not by looking up? I told the others we ought to study

history again, history teaches us more than erasures,
more than diminutions, there'd be something for us there.

I also dared to say we could begin to work at things again,
to make things, that I thought the hours of light would lengthen,

that nature still works that way. We would have a future.
Up to then we'd been observing anniversaries only

of mistakes and catastrophes, the darkness seemed to
blanket, to contain our terrible shame. I don't know

if anyone listened to me, it doesn't matter. Gradually,
afternoons began seeping back. As I'd promised, the children

could walk home from school in the freshening light,
they seemed more playful, singing nonsensical songs

so marvelous catbirds wanted to mimic them. Why say anything,
why tell them the endless nights would return? Listen to them,

the name of a new leader they trust on their lips, O O O they chant,
and I hear like one struggling to wake from a mournful dream.

.

Gail Mazur's fifth book, Zeppo's First Wife: New & Selected Poems, won the 2006 Massachusetts Book Award in poetry. Her most recent collection of poems, Figures in a Landscape, was published n 2011. She is distinguished writer in residence in the graduate program of Emerson College.

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