The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity
We were going toward nothing all along. Honing the acoustics, heralding the instant shifts, horizontal to vertical, particle to plexus, morning to late, lunch to later yet, instant to over. Done to overdone. And all against a pet-shop cacophony, the roof withstanding its heavy snow load. So, winter. And still, ambition to otherwise and a forest of wishes. Meager the music floating over. The car in the driveway. In the P-lot, or curbside. A building overlooking an estuary, inspired by a lighthouse. Always asking. Has this this been built? Or is it all process? Molecular coherence, a dramatic canopy, cafeteria din, audacious design. Or humble. Saying, We ask only to be compared to the ant- erior cruciate ligament. So simple. So elegant. Animated detail, data from digital. But of course there is also longstanding evil. The spider speaking to the fly, Come in, come in. Overcoming timidity. Overlooking consequence. Finally ending with the future. Take comfort. You were going nowhere. You were not alone. You were one of a body curled on a beach. Near sleep on a balcony. The negative night in a small town or part of an urban abstraction. Looking up at the billboard hummingbird, its enormous beak. There's a song that goes. . . And then the curtain drops.
From The Eye Like a Strange Balloon, Poems by Mary Jo Bang. Copyright © 2004 by Mary Jo Bang. Published by Grove/Atlantic. Appears with permission of the author and Grove/Atlantic.
Mary Jo Bang
Mary Jo Bang was born on October 22, 1946, in Waynesville, Missouri, and grew up in Ferguson, which is now a suburb of St. Louis. She received a BA and an MA in sociology from Northwestern University, a BA in photography from the Polytechnic of Central London, and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University.
Bang is the author of several books of poems, including A Doll for Throwing (Graywolf Press, 2017), a translation of Dante’s Inferno with illustrations by Henrik Drescher (Graywolf Press, 2012), and Elegy (Graywolf Press, 2007), which won the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and was a 2008 New York Times Notable Book. Her books Louise in Love (Grove Press, 2001) and Elegy both received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for a manuscript-in-progress. Her first book, Apology for Want (Middlebury College, 1997), was chosen by Edward Hirsch for the 1996 Bakeless Prize. Her translation of Purgatorio is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2021.
About her collection Elegy, which traces the aftermath of her son’s death, Wayne Koestenbaum writes: “Mary Jo Bang’s remarkable elegies recall the late work of Ingeborg Bachmann—a febrile, recursive lyricism. Like Nietzsche or Plath, Bang flouts naysayers; luridly alive, she drives deep into aporia, her new, sad country. Her stanzas, sometimes spilling, sometimes severe, perform an uncanny death-song, recklessly extended—nearly to the breaking point.”
Bang’s work has been chosen three times for inclusion in the Best American Poetry series. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a “Discovery”/The Nation award, a Pushcart Prize, a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, and a Hodder Award from Princeton University.
Bang was the poetry coeditor of the Boston Review from 1995 to 2005 and the director of the creative writing program at Washington University from 2003 to 2006. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
A Doll for Throwing (Graywolf Press, 2017)
The Last Two Seconds (Graywolf Press, 2015)
Inferno by Dante Allegheri; translation (Graywolf Press, 2012)
The Bride of E: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2009)
Elegy (Graywolf Press, 2007)
The Eye Like a Strange Balloon (Grove Press, 2004)
The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of the Swans (University of Georgia Press, 2001)
Louise in Love (Grove Press, 2001)
Apology for Want (Middlebury College, 1997)
Date Published: 2004-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/eye-strange-balloon-mounts-toward-infinity