Feature > Poetry
Mark Jarman

Mark Jarman

Mark Jarman's latest collection of poetry is Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (Sarabande Books, 2011). He is Centennial Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.

When I Look At The Dates Of Artists

When I look at the dates of artists who died before my age,
makers of lasting things or anything meant to last,
whether or not it did, still, when I look at their dates
and see I am still living, see compared with them
I'm doing all right, I'm moving on, here come new things
to make, here I go entering realms they could only dream of
(though I doubt it), I am not ashamed. I am puzzled—
as I have been since I was 18 and more talented friends,
all of us blood kin to poetry, all of us midnight novitiates,
simply quit writing and went on with their lives.  

We have all been living our lives now for a long time,
and when they hear from me they look through the bars at my state:
There he is in there, in the cell of poetry, working away.
And I watch them walk on to the next exhibit. For years I thought
it was I who patronized their kitchens and living rooms behind bars.
But they were climbing Machu Picchu, diving into the Marianas Trench,
skirting the blue black underbelly of space in their rocketing capsules.
I was the homebody, tethered to my spiral notebook, alarmed by experience.


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