"Wreck" and "rise above"

By Eleanor Wilner b. 1937 Eleanor Wilner
Because of the first, the fear of wreck,
which they taught us to fear (though we learned
at once, and easily),
                                                       because of the wreck
that was expected (and metal given velocity
and heft to assure it)—
                                                                we became adepts in
rise above: how many versions: the church
steeple that took the eye straight up to
heaven (though it seemed snagged on
the cross-beam of that cross, torn blue
at the top, where sense leaked out). And
rise above, transcendence, on that higher
plane, the vertical direction of virtue (a bony
finger pointing up to where matter dissolves
into distaste for it);
                                                      the space program, expensive
tons of rocket (soon to be debris) fired off
the planet's crust at anything out there, pocked
moon, red rocky Mars, ever the upward
urge, carved in the marble arch of the old library
door under which generations passed,
hoping to rise above it all—

like the woman the magician levitates
over the table, her body floating an unlikely
inch or two above the velvet-draped plateau...
watch her hovering, weightless,
                                                                                     the crowd staring
in wonder, the trick of the thing still hidden,
and the magician doing something now
with his hands, a flurry of brilliant
silk in the air, as she floats
in the endlessness of art,
                                                                  the magician
still waving his scarves, the air a bright
shatter of wings, doves from a hat,
our disbelief suspended,
while below, the wrecks accumulate:
scrap yard, broken concrete slabs, and
all those bodies not exempt from gravity,
beneath our notice as we ride
above it all, like froth on a wave
that will be water falling by the ton,
soon, when the tide turns.

Source: Poetry (January 2007).


This poem originally appeared in the January 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

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January 2007
 Eleanor  Wilner


Eleanor Wilner was born in 1937 in Ohio. She earned a BA from Goucher College and a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, where she completed her dissertation on the imagination, a work later published as Gathering the Winds: Visionary Imagination and Radical Transformation of Self and Society (1975).  Active in civil rights and peace movements, Wilner is known for writing poetry that engages politics, culture, history, and myth. . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Nature, Stars, Planets, Heavens, Living, Architecture & Design, Sciences, Religion, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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