Thursday Dec 07

Troy Jollimore is the author of two books of poetry: At Lake Scugog (Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets, 2011) and Tom Thomson in Purgatory (Margie / Intuit House, 2006), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is also the author of three philosophical books: Friendship and Agent-Relative Morality (Garland, 2001), Love’s Vision (Princeton UP, 2011) and On Loyalty (Routledge, 2012). His poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, The Believer, McSweeney’s, and many other publications. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Stanford Humanities Center and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and is currently Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Chico.
The New Joys
We are free now to do whatever we like,
and the new joys, the unprecedented ecstasies,
are laid out before us like a platoon
of dead birds on a long wooden table, cooked
to perfection, birds of every size and species,
not just the usual turkeys and hens
but blue jays, egrets, ravens, storks, pelicans,
slow-roasted penguins stuffed with wild spinach
and garnished with blue cheese, pan-fried oriole
served on a bed of polenta beside
sliver-spears of succulent sweet potato,
and even, right there at the center of things,
a majestic clay-baked cassowary. We savor
it all, first with our starved human eyes
as we balance goblets of wine and make small
polite trite conversation, before at last
we are permitted to shed our pretentions
of civilization and snatch our bright silver
utensils and charge like happy barbarians
into this battlefield, this feast
of delicate birdsflesh. We are allowed
to do this only because we will one day
be feasted upon, we eat and we will
be eaten, we consume and we will be
consumed, just as we believe and one day
we will be believed. And tonight, after we are done
we will leave the servants to deal with the plates
and I will carry you back to my room
and take off your dress, I will lift it over
your head like a man removing the feathers
from a duck he has just shot out of the sky,
and I will cradle you in my arms,
small denuded soft shivering thing,
and you’ll say to me can I tell you about it
again, and I will say yes, and your frightened
lips will whisper, not for the last time,
just one more time,this will be the last time.
Not Enough
There isn’t enough blue
for the sky and for the Steller’s Jay.
There isn’t enough blue
for my eyes and for Crows Over
a Wheatfield.There isn’t enough
black for my pain
and for the ink
that I’ll need for the letter
I want to send to you
that articulates my pain.
There isn’t enough black
for 3 AM and for the hole
in my eye that we call
the pupil, because calling it
the pupil can help us
forget that it’s a hole, because
holes in the body make us
nervous. There isn’t enough
green for the avocado
that I want to pulverize
to guacamole and for
the envy I feel
when a good friend of mine
writes a good poem or
says something clever that
makes some girl’s eyes
light up like a bonus
round. There isn’t enough
silence for the empty
rooms where the old men
and women wait for hours
for news that can’t be anything
but bad, and to keep
my words from mashing awkwardly
into each other. There isn’t
enough black for the hands
of the clock and the numbers
on the dial. There isn’t enough
fear for my fear
of small confined spaces
and my fear that brute absurdity
is the foundation
on which the universe
is built, with nothing
intelligible underneath.
There isn’t enough forgetting
to forget all the wars
we have fought—you have to
choose two or three,
and then simply resign yourself
to remembering the rest.
There isn’t enough red
for the blood that fertilized
the battlefields of those wars
and for the strawberries
and for the cherries
and for the boxes
of chocolates on Valentine’s
Day. There isn’t enough
night sky for us
to fall into safely
when the earth, as it must someday,
fails us. There isn’t enough
solace for a single
human being, let alone
for seven billion. There isn’t enough
silence for the emptiness
that swells against my heart’s
soft inner sleeve whenever I
think about the emptiness
the helpless animals
that become us are born out of
and the emptiness the helpless
animals that we become
are thrust unrepentantly
and brutally back into.