Effort for Distraction

By Josephine Miles 1911–1985 Josephine Miles

for Henry Adams

Effort for distraction grew
Ferocious, grew
Ferocious and paced, that was its exercise.

Effort for distraction strained,
Legged in the hour-like single stretch
Its heels and sight to feel, so slit its eyes.

Effort without effort or with
Greatest possible effort always centered
Back in the concentrated trough where lies

The magnet to the filings,
The saw tooth to the tongue,
The turn of life to a returning life.

By all the traction of mind and spin of spirit
Having gained grasp gasped to bear it,
Having got ground groaned, furious title holder.

Paced and cried, so sore for a different direction, grew
Ferocious, grew
Unkind to strength that gave it strength to grow.

Josephine Miles, “Effort for Distraction” from Collected Poems. Copyright � 1983 by Josephine Miles. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Illinois Press.

Source: Collected Poems 1930-83 (1983)

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Poet Josephine Miles 1911–1985


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 Josephine  Miles


Lifelong California resident Josephine Miles distinguished herself as an educator, spending her entire academic career at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was the first woman to be tenured in the English department. She is remembered as the editor of anthologies and critical texts, as an author of books on poetic style and language, and as an award-winning poet who produced over a dozen books of poems. Her . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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