Moving Things

By W. S. Di Piero b. 1945
My aunts mentioned her just once,
calling her my aunt, their sister,
though she wasn’t. They mentioned
the vinyl recliner in the kitchen,
the “I Like Ike” poster, the Sacred Heart,
cabbage smells, sulfur, and shame.

Before jolted by the gift that called
through but never really for her,
she became unpleasantly calm.
Moments later, after she said
“I don’t want this please,” God’s love
raced down the pulse into her look.

It was as if her things spoke back:
a table leg scraped the floor, a fork
wobbled in a drawer, knickknacks fell.
She nearly died each time it happened.
They said her mind just wasn’t there,
or she wasn’t in it anymore.

She sat helpless afterward,
papery when they lifted her
from vision seat to bed. The might
to move what her eye fell upon
is the image of her I keep,
her iridescent readiness.

The editors of Poetry magazine have paired the following prose quotations from City Dog: Essays by W.S. Di Piero with this poem:

Some poets believe Mother Memory isn’t relevant. A contemporary, responding to something I’d said in an interview, once remarked that I was some kind of Wordsworthian mooncalf, that poets who think as I do are writing out of an obsolescent Romantic presupposition, that one shouldn’t make such a fuss about poetry as recovered subjectivity. He had a point. Recollection of personal experience can’t be the only motor that powers the imagination; pragmatic invention is just as important. And yet to dish memory’s elaborations, falsifications, and crackpot inventiveness, along with the world of subjectivity it so critically shapes (and which shapes it), is to give up radical curiosity about what we are, chemically as well as spiritually. Or spiritual becausechemical. In the past fifty years, brain researchers have practically created an alternate universe seemingly as expansive and finely articulated as our own, except that it really is our own, and it’s not only in our heads. We are what we network, or what our bundles of nerve cells and their extensive axions that shoot and hook them to other cellular networks make us. It’s where deity lives.

Getting older, I don’t so much want to remember things in poetry. I want to keep them.

“Moving Things” from Shadows Burning, © 1995, reprinted by permission of Northwestern University Press. Prose excerpts selected from City Dog: Essays, © 2009, reprinted by permission of Northwestern University Press.

Source: Poetry (June 2012).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2012
 W. S. Di Piero


W.S. Di Piero was born in 1945 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned degrees from St. Joseph’s College and San Francisco State College. A poet, essayist, art critic, and translator, Di Piero has taught at institutions such as Northwestern University, Louisiana State University, and Stanford, where he is professor emeritus of English and on faculty in the prestigious Stegner Poetry Workshop. Elected to the American Academy of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Body, The Mind, Relationships, Family & Ancestors

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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