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The Word

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The word comes along out of the mountain every once in awhile to chill me.

Undercurrent of an unwillingness to believe all

is well in early spring beside a molten river riven by sun,

its loud hush and glug through leafless aspens split by a gravel bar’s pulled switch.

A bull trout with fluorescent red dorsal fin eddies in a pool

between a sloughed-off root clump and caved-in grassy bank.

Last year’s downed trees, slash piles, busted garden gate.

Heed me and hear my loneliness. Split by a desire to be known

by a crowd of solitaires and by one word split.

A raven falls out of the yellow flame of a willow.

Its wings purely black buff sunlight.

It paces the gravel bar, lifts into westerly sun.

Wing flash. Black luster. Gone.

It is hope that tricks. Belief that when this now shines,

this now shines with or without us. Then why

scribble the veery’s mid-morning marshal song?

Soon Rick will arrive to help burn wood piles:

gasoline newspaper cedar shakes to start the blaze

in this emptiness searching for godwords.

The ones God hears when priests without shoes

without socks with their shawls stretched over their heads

arms out make forts of light. Their backs to the congregation,

their faces toward the ark, they rock.

Their white wings so pure that this now is no more than then

with its barbells of silence, with its task of burning.

Source: Poetry (April 2010)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Word

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  • Emily Warn was born in San Francisco and grew up in California and Detroit. She earned degrees from Kalamazoo College and the University of Washington. Her full-length collections of poetry include The Leaf Path (1982), The Novice Insomniac (1996), and Shadow Architect (2008). She has published two chapbooks: The Book of Esther (1986) and Highway Suite (1987) and is the founding editor of poetryfoundation.org, Warn’s poems and criticism have been published widely in journals and magazines, including Bookforum, Blackbird, Jacket2, Parabola, the Seattle Times, and Poetry. She is a former Wallace Stegner fellow and has held writer-in-residence positions at institutions such as the Bush School in Seattle, Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Centrum Foundation, and Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico.
    A former group programming manager for Microsoft, Warn has also been a web consultant for Amazon, the Methow Conservancy, and Farming and the Environment. She has taught...

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