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About this poet

Born in 1963, poet Joshua Weiner is the author of From the Book of Giants (University of Chicago Press, 2006); and The World's Room (University of Chicago Press, 2001).

He is the recipient of a 2002 Whiting Writer's Award and the 2003-2004 Rome Prize from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters; he has also held the Witter Bynner Fellowship at the Library of Congress and a residency fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He has received an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Discovery/The Nation Award, the PEN New England Discovery Award, the Joseph Henry Jackson Award from the San Francisco Foundation, and grants from the Illinois Arts Council.

He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, the novelist Sarah Blake, and their two children.


Joshua Weiner
When I sing to you I am alone these days 
               and can't believe it, as if the stars

--while gazing up at them--just shut off.

I search out the one light, brightest light
               in the night sky, but find

I cannot find it without weaker lights to guide me 
               like red tail-lights on a car up ahead

after midnight when I'm sleepy, that illustrate 
               how the highway curves,

curving to a hook, and maybe save my life 
               and it means nothing to me

because nothing has happened, not the faintest 
               glint of drama.

(Raining gently, the tarmac turns slick, moistened 
               to life with renewed residues;

I can sense it with my hands on the wheel, 
               the drops--not too heavy--
drumming off-time rhythms on the metal roof, 
               the metal surface like a skin tense and sweating

and the road empty now, there are so many 
               exits . . .)

Where is my family, both hearth and constellated trail of flicker 
               I have always followed to your word?

There, but mastered by fear of dark compulsions 
               and loathing atrocities committed in your name,

they hit the dimmer switch and extinguish themselves 
               whenever I sing your praises. . .

Who can blame them?
               (I can't help but blame them.)

And anyway they are far from me
               (farthest when they come to visit)-- 
I should be self-reliant, in my armchair
               like Emerson reading by a single lamp;

I should not need them, finding in you
               myself, little firebug needing no outlet,

my soft light blinking as I oxidize my aimless flight 
               to love, to the good,

even my glowing chemistry unnecessary now 
               in the ultimate light of day.
But what good would that do me?
               With you, in you, perhaps others do not matter,

but this isn't heaven, and I cannot make a circle 
               all on my own-- 

Photon, luciferin, meteor: as I burn myself
               to pieces, I only pray

let my sparking tail remain a moment longer 
               than our physics might allow,

some indication, however brief, that there continues 
               (amen) a path to follow.

From The World's Room by Joshua Weiner. Copyright © 2000 by Joshua Weiner. Reprinted with permission by The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

From The World's Room by Joshua Weiner. Copyright © 2000 by Joshua Weiner. Reprinted with permission by The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

Joshua Weiner

Joshua Weiner

Poet Joshua Weiner is the author of two poetry collections. He has received several awards, including an Academy of American Poets Prize.

by this poet

What's that behind my back?
What's that gnawing behind my back?

It sounds like a dog crunching bones for marrow.
Bones here so old, the sun's dried up the marrow.
What kind of dog splinters bone like that?

Don't turn around, I hear it getting louder.
Don't turn, don't turn, its growl is getting louder.
Oh, don
Why won't you make me now who wants a life
Inside your life?

                    I fear you as a thief
Stealing about the orchards of my future,
Green fruit glistening above a starving creature.

To increase the coin buried inside yourself
You need exchange it for an alien wealth.

Scared boy, he even fled a cloud
reminding him of what might happen

when his father returned from sea,
wasted, to find him perhaps again

locked out in the cold, waiting
for other drinkers to come home

(his mother, her lover)--the catalysis
of routine violence passing close

like a storm cloud insisting rain;