Feature > Poetry
Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh's most recent book, Space Walk (Mariner, 2008), won the Kingsley Tufts Award. His new book, Army Cats, is forthcoming in spring of 2011. He has won many awards, including the Shelley Prize, and grants from the Lila Wallace Fund, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches in the M.F.A. program at Hunter College.

O. D.

I was surprised to find them
parading their deaths in front of me,
teenage Banquos grinning, insinuating,
snapping their fingers
in a cliché of cool,
dancing, sly, refusing to lie
down and be buried
under pity,
                  highschool kids racing
to the edge not knowing
every step
sheers away
into a precipice—
                            but they mocked
my solemnity, shoved off my pity,
my anger and sadness
annoyed them, they were tougher
than I'd imagined—
playing his saxophone, improvised
around the circle of fifths,
his tall, slender body
standing square-shouldered
as he blew and blew;
and the other boy, Peter,
he holds his guitar
defensively in front of him,
he wards off all comers,
he wraps around
himself a wall of electric wha-wha—.

Not quite boys, not quite men
doing to themselves
what death does to you—courting
some out of bounds sensation
pushing back into the vein
up the arm to the heart
rushing to the brain:
one was found by his mother
slumped in the bathtub's
cooling water, the other
lying curled on himself
like a wild creature, foetally
drawn up, shoes off,
shoe lace tied around his bicep.

Long hair bouncing
on their shoulders, dancing,
dancing, their bodies
not quite grown into,
they project attitude
that charms and
cuts all ways—
they seem unaware
of pain, their concerns
aren't long term,
they look sexually turned on
and rigorously absorbed
the way a mother
with her newborn looks, feeding,
feeding, their faces shine,
their eyes say OK OK OK
they are doing for themselves
what we do
for ourselves, lively hunters
and gatherers risking
what they are, they walk out
of themselves into the lives
they now live by not living.


Poets in Person:
Philip Levine


Our Questions for Phil
An Interview

Book Review

David Rigsbee reviews
Philip Levine's new book
News of the World