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About this poet

Elise Paschen is the author of Bestiary (Red Hen Press, 2009); Infidelities (Story Line Press, 1996), winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize; and Houses: Coasts (Sycamore Press, 1985). Paschen served as executive director of the Poetry Society of America from 1988 until 2001 and cofounded the nationwide Poetry in Motion program. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lives in Chicago.

Division Street

Elise Paschen

                         ". . . Prayer book and Mother, shot themselves last Sunday."
                                        Gwendolyn Brooks


The spire of Holy Name Cathedral rose like a prayer
above Chicago Avenue. I thumbed a leather-bound book
in catechism class, recited the Hail Mary. Fire and
devils blazed at night. The nuns told my mother
I had a calling. On Scott Street a man lay shot
dead in our alley. It was the Gold Coast.  They prided themselves
on sidewalks safe as shrines. I questioned God, the last
to leave the room. Riots flared in Cabrini-Green that Sunday.

Copyright © 2012 by Elise Paschen. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 by Elise Paschen. Used with permission of the author.

Elise Paschen

Elise Paschen is the author of Bestiary (Red Hen Press, 2009); Infidelities (Story Line Press, 1996), winner of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize; and Houses: Coasts (Sycamore Press, 1985). Paschen served as executive director of the Poetry Society of America from 1988 until 2001 and cofounded the nationwide Poetry in Motion program. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lives in Chicago.

by this poet

poem
The night you were conceived
we balanced underneath a tent,

amazed at the air-marveler,
who, hand-over-hand, seized the stars,

then braved the line to carry home
a big-top souvenir umbrella.

Earth-bound a year, you dare
gravity, sliding from the couch

to table. Mornings, on tiptoe, 
stretching fingers, you