Stranding

By Tom Sleigh b. 1953 Tom Sleigh
What came wafting   
down the ditch
by the marsh grass waving   
opened a hole   
in the day through which,   

like a puff of breath,
a ghost fountained up
rising in soft slo-mo,
lost, desolate, no place
left to go.   

Dear bloody
Beirut and its internet cafes
were still smoking
from last night's
"little bombing."   

Such threads, tattered sleeves
blown all over the street
from Emporio Armani.
Husband and wife shot   
dead at the airport checkpoint.

Where else would this lead?
The investiture
of grieving takes all day
to sweep up in the tidal spillage
of plate glass.

What ish my nation,
asked Captain MacMorris
between battles.
But the ditch knows   
just who we are—

and I see its only water
on a stealth raid
of the glimmer
hidden in the reeds.
And when I come close,

little scavenger flashings
and great claws held out rigidly
scuttle back into mud holes
drilling the bank.
Bending down to look,

I could smell the corruption's
gathering, sweetish odor,
its sonar gone haywire
driving it to shore.
What choices are you given,   

what makes you want to swim   
out of your own element?
The demure little ear-holes
and intelligent clear eyes,
the fate from birth sealed   

inside its smile,   
spent flukes and tail   
being gnawed to bone.
The curt unrevealing stare
mirroring back my own.

Source: Poetry (June 2008).

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This poem originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2008
 Tom  Sleigh

Biography

Tom Sleigh is the author of more than half a dozen volumes of poetry. Space Walk (2007) won the 2008 Kingsley Tufts Award and earned Sleigh considerable critical acclaim. Referring to this collection, poet Philip Levine noted, “Sleigh’s reviewers use words such as ‘adept,’ ‘elegant,’ and ‘classical.’ Reading his new book, I find all those terms beside the point, even though not one is inaccurate. I am struck by the human dramas . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, War & Conflict, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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