All Good Conductors

By Christian Wiman b. 1966 Christian Wiman
                           I.

O the screech and heat and hate
we have for each day's commute,

the long wait at the last stop
before we go screaming

underground, while the pigeons
court and shit and rut

insolently on the tracks
because this train is always late,

always aimed at only us,
who when it comes with its

blunt snout, its thousand mouths,
cram and curse and contort

into one creature, all claws and eyes,
tunneling, tunneling, tunneling

toward money.

                           2.

Sometimes a beauty
cools through the doors at Grand,

glides all the untouchable
angles and planes

of herself
to stand among us

like a little skyscraper,
so sheer, so spare,

gazes going all over her
in a craving wincing way

like sun on glass.

                           3.

There is a dreamer
all good conductors

know to look for
when the last stop is made

and the train is ticking cool,
some lover, loner, or fool

who has lived so hard
he jerks awake

in the graveyard,
where he sees

coming down the aisle
a beam of light

whose end he is,
and what he thinks are chains

becoming keys.

Christian Wiman, "All Good Conductors" from Every Riven Thing. Copyright © 2011 by Christian Wiman.  Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Source: Every Riven Thing (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)

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Poet Christian Wiman b. 1966

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Biography

Poet, translator, editor, and essayist Christian Wiman was raised in West Texas and earned a BA at Washington and Lee University. He received an honorary doctorate from North Central College.
 
Making use of—and at times gently disassembling—musical and metrical structures, Wiman often explores themes of spiritual faith and doubt in his spare, precise poems. Praising Wiman’s “ear for silence” in a review of Every Riven Thing for . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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