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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, August 31, 2017.
About this Poem 

“This poem is from an in-progress collection of sonnets that are in some measure both traditional and improvisational. I join poets before me in thinking through the reality of pain—physical, spiritual—a subject at odds, it would seem, with the poem’s playfulness. I’ve long been obsessed with sonnets by Donne and Hopkins, who wrestle so valiantly with suffering, and—for a while, anyway—live to sing about it.”
—Diane Seuss

There is a force that breaks the body

There is a force that breaks the body, inevitable,
the by-product is pain, unexceptional as a rain
gauge, which has become arcane, rhyme, likewise,
unless it’s assonant or internal injury, gloom, joy,
which is also a dish soap, but not the one that rids
seabirds of oil from wrecked tankers, that’s Dawn,
which should change its name to Dusk, irony being
the flip side of sentimentality here in the Iron Age,
ironing out the kinks in despair, turning it to hairdo
from hair, to do, vexing infinitive, much better to be
pain’s host, body of Christ as opposed to the Holy
Ghost, when I have been suffering at times I could
step away from it by embracing it, a blues thing,
a John Donne thing, divest by wrestling, then sing.

Copyright © 2017 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Diane Seuss

Diane Seuss

Diane Seuss is the author of four books of poetry: Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (Graywolf Press, 2018); Four-Legged Girl (Graywolf Press, 2015); Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010), recipient of the Juniper Prize for Poetry; and It Blows You Hollow (New Issues Press, 1998).

by this poet

poem
1
I drove all the way to Cape Disappointment but didn’t
have the energy to get out of the car. Rental. Blue Ford
Focus. I had to stop in a semipublic place to pee
on the ground. Just squatted there on the roadside.
I don’t know what’s up with my bladder. I pee and then
I have to pee and pee again
poem

Accurate like an arrow without a target
and no target in mind.

Silence has its own roar or, not-roar,
just as Rothko wrote “I don’t express myself
in my paintings. I express my not-self.”

A poem that expresses the not-self.
Everything but the self.
The meadow’s veil of fog, but

poem

with the milkweeds splitting at the seams emancipating their seeds
that were once packed in their pods like the wings and hollow bones
of a damp bird held too tightly in a green hand. And the giant jade