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Paul Guest

Paul Guest

Paul Guest is the author of three collections of poetry and a memoir. A Guggenheim Fellow, he teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia.

After Damascus

              ...for stars and shadows ain't good to see by.
                        Mark Twain


Then, this happened:  they found your severed thumb.
A listless troop of Eagle Scouts
far outside incorporated Halifax,
where they had no business being.
It was true, everyone had said so,
though suspicious-looking aldermen
lent the boys cheap carbines
and sundry ammunition and mean-looking blades
to clip to their belts like phones.
Come back, they said, giving them up,
miniature sacrifices marching into
the violence of everywhere else.
And you were there already, shaving
with old hubcaps and notched machetes,
line-items in the surplus of a dim, disreputable war.
You slept inside cast-off hammocks
when the nights were warm.
It was easy to believe life
was not an endlessly replicated series of visual puns.
And then in your hands
you were holding some blood,
belonging to nobody but you.
A bland nausea bubbling up.
The stirrings of critters in the distant brush.
Not much else to attend you
and your stupid wound.
No orchestral fanfare set to the ticking of tape.
That would have been nice,
you thought, but a mess
within another mess, and your life besides.
It was easy to bind your hand
and cover up your thumb
with some of the cellophane that was all over.
To say a few sweet words
and then leave it on the ground,
as much use as it had ever been.
And then it was easier still to go,
that much lighter in flesh
and the blood that sped out of you.
Whenever they found you
hitching on the road's crumbling shoulder,
there was no good light
by which to see you
swear your name was very serious,
so a few them itched
to unsling their borrowed guns.
You're already dying,
they muttered and coughed and kicked
at the scant clods of grass where you stood.
You're almost out of blood.
You don't even know it.
What would you trade for your life?


Thomas Lux
Nullius in Verba


Tony Hoagland
Abstract Expressionism


Poets in Person:
Gregory Orr