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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

The world, italicized.

Douglas fir blurs into archetype,
a black vertical with smeared green arms.
The load of pinecones at the top,
a brown smudge which could be anything: a wreath
of moths, a rabbit strung up
like a flag.

All trees are trees.
Death to modifiers.

poem

Some women make a pilgrimage to visit it
in the Indiana library charged to keep it safe.

I didn’t drive to it; I dreamed it, the thick braid
roped over my hands, heavier than lead.

My own hair was long for years.
Then I became obsessed with chopping it off,

and I did, clear up to my

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