Disarming of Shadow, Arming of Light
I wish I were like Johnny Cash
& thought my heart was mine.
I’ve worn a black suit
my entire life. It suits the war
my eyes ignite.
My sins sit on my lap,
bald, blind, desperate
for the mercy of lost roads,
glottal white lines.
Only smoke will take me
far to nowhere—
a woman living
her own burning road
& a charmed God—
the unmarked sky
where a plague of blackbirds
fell across my back
like an unlit cross.
Copyright © 2015 by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Used with permission of the author.
About this Poem
“Is your heart yours and how do you recognize, inhabit, and expand it? Over years of listening to Johnny Cash, I heard a new question in ‘I Walk the Line’ and thought about his voice and lyrics in the way that a poet or poem will find you (again) at the darkest, most honest part of your life. I also wanted to bridge and invert the visual, psychological imagery of Cash’s identity as a ‘man in black’ for myself. I’ve discovered so much light, grief, and God in my skin.”
—Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet, visual artist, and novelist. Her hybrid collection of poetry and photography, Seeing the Body (W.W. Norton), was published in 2020.
Other poetry collections by Griffiths include Lighting the Shadow (Four Way Books, 2015), The Requited Distance (Sheep Meadow Press, 2011), Mule & Pear (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2011), and Miracle Arrhythmia (Willow Books, 2010).
Also a visual artist, Griffiths is the creator of Poets on Poetry (P.O.P), an intimate series of interviews, which gathers more than fifty contemporary poets together in conversation to discuss poetry in relation to individual human experience and culture.
Griffiths is a recipient of fellowships including Cave Canem, Kimbilio, Millay Colony, Vermont Studio Center, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and Yaddo. Her forthcoming debut novel, Promise, will be published by Random House. Griffiths will be the guest editor for Poem-a-Day in February 2021, and she lives in New York City.
Seeing the Body (W. W. Norton, 2020)
Lighting the Shadow (Four Way Books, 2015)
Mule & Pear (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2011)
The Requited Distance (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2011)
Miracle Arrhythmia (Willow Books, 2010)
Date Published: 2015-02-23
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/disarming-shadow-arming-light