By Alicia Ostriker b. 1937 Alicia Ostriker
Boil over—it’s what the nerves do,   
Watch them seethe when stimulated,

Murmurs the man at the stove   
To the one at the fridge—

Watch that electric impulse that finally makes them   
Fume and fizz at either

Frayed end. If you could grasp a bundle
Of nerves in your fist like a jumper cable, and sense that

Python’s writhe, or a garden hose when the pressure’s   
High and it wilfully weaves about

Trying its best to get away from you—
You’d see how nothing is passive,

We’re all—I mean from our elephant sun, ejaculant   
Great-grandfather, cascading down

To weightless   
Unstoppable neutrinos

Leaving their silvery trace   
In vacuum chambers, in

Effervescent lines, twisted   
Madly in our madhouse jackets,

Rules, laws, which we are seething to break   
Though to rupture them might be of course to die,

Or, possibly,   
To change:

Boil, it’s what water
And everything else teaches.

Alicia Ostriker, “Boil” from The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998. Copyright © 1998 by Alicia Ostriker. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: The Little Space: Poems Selected and New 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)

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Poet Alicia Ostriker b. 1937

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Nature, The Body

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Alicia  Ostriker


Poet, critic, and activist Alicia Ostriker was born in 1937 in New York City. She earned degrees from Brandeis and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Twice a finalist for the National Book Award, Ostriker has published numerous volumes of poetry, including The Book of Seventy (2009), which received the Jewish National Book Award. Other books of poetry include No Heaven (2005); The Volcano Sequence (2002); Little Space (1998), . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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