Michael Gessner

In the History of Great Ideas

small acts of kindness are noticeably absent.

On a cool morning, someone—not a lover—
draws up the quilt to cover the shoulder
of another, sleeping with her back to the world.

The dry voice of the long dead,
the breath from an ancient world,
the hermit of history,
motions with a dry hand—

someone—not a lover—covered
the back of another.

Hölderlin’s Coat
for Rebecca Seiferle

When I read this, from you,
Imagination’s bacchanal,
a flutter of blue butterflies
spins upward, circles
in a whirlpool, & the whirlpool
spins too, in a shaft of sunlight
in the morning, & the whole world
is anticipation itself.

When I read you, Hölderlin
holds out his coat, & since he
is a ghost & does not need his coat,
he gives it to me to wear.  There are
whispers in the sleeves.

Sails fill, spank-out, snap
in the stiff salt wind, & from Argo’s prow,
from the magical timber of the Dodona
(the page is the flesh of the tree,)
the whisperings are caught up
& spun around at those angles
necessary to leave ground.

Michael Gessner has authored 11 books of poetry and prose, most recently, Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2016). And recent poems have appeared in North American Review, The French Literary Review, Verse Daily, and rue des Beaux-Arts (Paris). A voting member of the National Book Critics Circle, his reviews can be found in NAR, Jacket2, The Edgar Allan Poe Review and, forthcoming, The Kenyon Review. For additional information see https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/michael-gessner.



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