Recitation

By Scott Cairns b. 1954 Scott Cairns
He did not fall then, blind upon a road,   
nor did his lifelong palsy disappear.   
He heard no voice, save the familiar,

ceaseless, self-interrogation
of the sore perplexed. The kettle steamed   
and whistled. A heavy truck downshifted

near the square. He heard a child calling,   
and heard a mourning dove intone its one   
dull call. For all of that, his wits remained

quite dim. He breathed and spoke the words he read.   
If what had been long dead then came alive,   
that resurrection was by all appearances

metaphorical. The miracle arrived
without display. He held a book, and as he read   
he found the very thing he’d sought. Just that.

A life with little hurt but one, the lucky gift   
of a raveled book, a kettle slow to heat,   
and time enough therefore to lift the book

and find in one slight passage the very wish   
he dared not ask aloud, until, that is,   
he spoke the words he read.


Scott Cairns, “Recitation” from Philokalia: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Scott Cairns. Reprinted with the permission of Zoo Press.

Source: Philokalia: New and Selected Poems (Zoo Press, 2002)

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Poet Scott Cairns b. 1954

Subjects Reading & Books, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Scott  Cairns

Biography

Scott Cairns was born in Tacoma, Washington. He received his B.A. from Western Washington University, his M.A. from Hollins College, an M.F.A. from Bowling Green State University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Cairns has taught at numerous universities including University of North Texas, Old Dominion University, and the University of Missouri. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2006.

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SUBJECT Reading & Books, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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