By Susan Stewart b. 1952 Susan Stewart
Believing each simple thing passes from a perception that is less clear
into one that is, eventually, more clear. Believing each simple thing contains

within it a minimal unity beyond which whatever else can be
exists. That the two seeds, or four seeds, are where the pear will go and where

it began. Black bark, blossoms in the mild rain, smelling like piss
in the spring rain, the chips and twigs raining down beneath our weight

as we broke off bouquets for the teacher. “What is that smell?” she asked.
Stark, white, delicate, attached with green cuffs,

twig to twig, the blooms bursting through the runnels that
held them. Five runnels made in the foil by five fingers.

The given world is infinite and reality is complete.

That’s what I had written in the morning on the blackboard.
And then, going home, I was stalled

again on the bridge. I looked up and out and there
I saw the girl flying and falling, flying and falling

in the distance, in the narrow air between two buildings,
her arms outspread, over and over

against the strip of sky and above the gravel, or grass
or ground—the light changed and I couldn’t see at all

where or how she had dragged the trampoline
that must have been the yielding source of all her motion.

If you find a sight like this a kind of gift or sign, you’ve missed the way
the mind seals over, the way the simplest thing pulls on its heavy hood

and turns away slowly from a thought. For later, weeks later,
I was stalled again in mid-bridge and couldn’t remember,

yet could vaguely remember, the sense that something
was about to happen, that the light

would change like a bell or alarm
and that in turn would mean the time had come

when everyone must leave the school—
with every sweater and pencil left in place

—to burn, and burn
and burn back to the ground.

Susan Stewart, “Pear” from Columbarium (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003). Copyright © 2003 by the University of Chicago. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Columbarium (The University of Chicago Press, 2003)

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Poet Susan Stewart b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Susan  Stewart


In an interview at the University of Pennsylvania, Susan Stewart said that her primary goal as a poet is “to get people to read more slowly, and to reread, and to read a whole book and go back to the beginning of the book and see connections.” Her writing can be startlingly clear, while at the same time—in the words of the MacArthur Foundation, on the occasion of presenting her with a “Genius Award”—it makes “strange and . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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