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Meadow thistle below the Bridge of Primasole, Sicily

by Richard Siken

I looked at all the trees and didn’t know what to do.

A box made out of leaves.
What else was in the woods? A heart, closing. Nevertheless.

Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside of someone else.
I kept my mind on the moon. Cold Moon. Long Nights Moon.

From the landscape: a sense of scale.
From the dead: a sense of scale.

I turned my back on the story. A sense of superiority.
Everything casts a shadow.

Your body told me in a dream it’s never been afraid of anything.

Fall, with its passion-drunk, scorching ignitions of color that burn across the landscape, slows, as the cold deepens, into mysteries of poetry. Perhaps a yearly melancholy. Acceptance of the inward-looking self. In the quiet hours, poems, themselves fog-like tendrils of smudged meaning and obliterations of shape and form, mirror the mists threaded among the cattails along Latah Creek. What is there, and what is unseen. A landscape recognized; another of illusion and shift.

"War of the Foxes" (Copper River Press), Siken's long-awaited follow-up to "Crush," winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, states on its book jacket, "Filled with truths and fabrications, the poems in War of the Foxes investigate the fallacies and epiphanies inherent in any search for perfect order or truth. Violently romantic, Silken’s poetry takes the self and turns it, over and over, in an unsettling conflagration of thought, dream, and speech."

Forking over the compost of the self. The hunger for a philosophy of truth.

Detail of the Woods. This opaque, aching poem speaks of lost love to me, and to the singularity of our physical existence in the world. The body, the solitude, the death. And yet the heart. Timeless, nested, connected. How can we be of one truth while only home within the other? Siken writes,"Everyone needs a place." We exist in finite dimensional space, yet we live, we find solace, "inside of someone else." This is true and bleak beauty. A juxtaposition of limitations and boundarylessness. A hypothesis that what we are is both less and more than we know.

The imagery of this poem haunts me. A box made out of leaves. Both suggestive of a coffin in the earth and the closing in of a vast unfamiliar forest around our narrator, defining his solitude, his existential isolation. I turned my back on the story. Haven’t we all, at one point or another in our relationships, done the same? Accept the fact, discard the myth. Abandon the intangible and dwell on what is real. A sense of scale.

Lastly there is our awareness of the loss imprinted within the loss. The decision to let go, to forget. To excise our attachment. Cold Moon. Long Nights Moon.

A heart, closing.

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