High Tension Lines across a Landscape

By John Ciardi 1916–1986 John Ciardi
There are diagrams on stilts all wired together   
Over the hill and the wind and out of sight.   
There is a scar in the trees where they walk away   
Beyond me. There are signs of something   
Nearly God (or at least most curious)
About them. I think those diagrams are not   
At rest.
            I think they are a way of ciphering God:   
He is the hugest socket and all his miracles
Are wired behind him scarring the hill and the wind   
As the waterfall flies roaring to his city
On the open palms of the diagram.
                                                   There is
Shining, I suppose, in that city at night
And measure for miracles, and wheels whirling   
So quick-silver they seem to be going backwards.   
And there’s a miracle already. But I
Went naked through his wood of diagrams   
On a day of the rain beside me to his city.

When I kissed that socket with my wet lip   
My teeth fell out, my fingers sprouted chives,   
And what a bald head chewed on my sick heart!

John Ciardi, “High Tension Lines Across a Landscape” from From Time To Time (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1951). Used with the permission of the Ciardi Family Publishing Trust.

Source: The Collected Poems of John Ciardi (University of Arkansas Press, 1997)

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Poet John Ciardi 1916–1986

Subjects Religion, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 John  Ciardi


To millions of Americans, the late John Ciardi was "Mr. Poet, the one who has written, talked, taught, edited, translated, anthologized, criticized, and propelled poetry into a popular, lively art," according to Peter Comer of the Chicago Tribune. Although recognized primarily as a poet and critic, Ciardi's literary endeavors encompassed a vast range of material. From juvenile nonsense poetry to scholarly verse translations, . . .

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SUBJECT Religion, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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