By Alfred Corn b. 1943 Alfred Corn
Whether anger quickens a lagging stride,
and periodic burn-offs in the forest
revitalize exhausted soil and flora—.
Whether we should take pleasure in the wildcat

jubilation of a lightning bolt
that whips its silver vein of genesis
through the night sky, flash-photo of a white
birch upended, the root-system buckled

to swollen thunderheads—. And whether naming
an offense amounts to sour grapes and common
bitterness, or even the conceited nonsense
of unwashed yahoo multitudes, a yawping

insult to civilized behavior—. Whether
a July rainstorm, even when it drenches
the unprepared pedestrian and befuddles
traffic, might be extravagant, a joy,

like the whoops and escalating bop glissandos
of Gillespie’s upraised horn, cascading pitches
a countersong to meteoric chalk marks
Perseids burn across the House of Leo—.

And whether peaceful ecstasy might float
up from a fifteen-second avalanche
reflected in the skier’s goggles, his jacket
a spark of scarlet on the topmost slope,

waiting for the homeward track to clear.

Alfred Corn, “Whether” from Contradictions. Copyright © 2002 by Alfred Corn. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Contradictions: Poems (2002)

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Poet Alfred Corn b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

 Alfred  Corn


American author Alfred Corn has published ten books of poems, including Stake: Selected Poems, 1972-1992 (1999) and, most recently, Unions (2014). He has also published a novel, Part of His Story, a study of prosody The Poem’s Heartbeat, and two collections of critical essays, The Metamorphoses of Metaphor and Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007. His second novel, Miranda’s Book, will be published in late 2014.

As a graduate . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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