You Would Know

By Marvin Bell b. 1937 Marvin Bell
That you, Father, are “in my mind,”
some will argue, who cherish the present
but flee the past. They haven’t my need
to ask, What was I? Asking instead,
What am I?, they see themselves bejeweled
and wingèd. Because they would fly and have value,   
their answers are pretty but false:

the fixings of facile alchemists,
preferring their stones to brains.
The brain, remember, is not foolproof   
either, and does and does until it can’t.   
Sodden, quivering, crossed and recrossed,   
the mind can become a headstone   
or be malice stuffed with fish.

Everything changes so quickly. You who were   
are no longer and what I was I’m not.   
Am I to know myself, except as I was?   
The rest is catchy, self-promising, false.   
Oh please write to me, and tell me.   
I just want to be happy again. That’s
what I was, happy, maybe am, you would know.

Marvin Bell, “You Would Know” from Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000. Copyright © 2000 by Marvin Bell. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Nightworks: Poems 1962-2000 (Copper Canyon Press, 2000)

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Poet Marvin Bell b. 1937

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Living, Relationships, Death, The Mind

 Marvin  Bell


American poet and critic Marvin Bell "is a poet of the family. He writes of his father, his wives, his sons, and himself in a dynamic interaction of love and loss, accomplishment, and fear of alienation. These are subjects that demand maturity and constant evaluation. A complete reading of Bell's canon shows his ability to understand the durability of the human heart. Equally impressive is his accompanying technical . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Living, Relationships, Death, The Mind

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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