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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, May 23, 2018.
About this Poem 

“Those late-night, before-dawn conversations we once had routinely with friends when young later become inadvertent accountings of what’s been gained, but also of what’s been lost, along the way—those unexpected human expenses exacted by and paid to experience.”
—David St. John

Before Dawn

You ask me again this evening
          at what price

Does wisdom finally come
          in any life

Or at any age & now I think
          I know

The answer swear to me that
          when I tell you   

It is only everything you believe 

You will travel as far from this city
          as you can before

The streets grow smeared & lost
          to the smug

& promiscuous coming of the day




Copyright © 2018 by David St. John. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by David St. John. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

David St. John

David St. John

David St. John is the author of over ten collections of poetry, including Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems (Perennial, 1994), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
  Vivian St. John (1881-1974)

There is a train inside this iris:

You think I'm crazy, & like to say boyish
& outrageous things. No, there is

A train inside this iris.

It's a child's finger bearded in black banners.
A single window like a child's nail,

A darkened porthole lit by the white,
poem
I have always loved the word guitar.

I have no memories of my father on the patio
At dusk, strumming a Spanish tune,
Or my mother draped in that fawn wicker chair
Polishing her flute;
I have no memories of your song, distant Sister
Heart, of those steel strings sliding
All night through the speaker of
poem
              It was in the old days,
When she used to hang out at a place
                        Called Club Zombie,
A black cabaret that the police liked
         To raid now and then. As she
              Stepped through the door, the light
         Would hit her platinum hair,
And believe me, heads