Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


August, 1953

A nurse gathers up the afterbirth. My mother
    *
had been howling but now could sleep.
    *
By this time I am gone—also gathered up
    *
& wheeled out. Above my jaundiced face the nurses hover.
    *
Outside, a scab commands a city bus. The picketers battle cops
    *
& ten thousand Soviet conscripts in goggles
    *
kneel & cover their eyes. Mushroom cloud above the Gobi,
    *
& slithering toward Stalin's brain, the blood clot
    *
takes its time. Ethel Rosenberg has rocketed
    *
to the afterlife, her hair shooting flame. The afterbirth
    *
is sloshing in a pail, steadied by an orderly who curses
    *
when the elevator doors stay shut: I am soul & body & medical waste
    *
foaming to the sewers of St. Paul. I am not yet aware
    *
of gratitude or shame.
                                I do know the light is everywhere.

Credit


From World Tree, published by University of Pittsburgh Press. Copyright © 2011 by David Wojahn. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Author


David Wojahn

David Wojahn was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on August 22, 1953. He earned his BA at the University of Minnesota and his MFA at the University of Arizona.

Wojahn’s nine collections of poetry are For the Scribe (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017); World Tree (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), the recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982–2004 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the winner of the O.B. Hardison Award from the Folger Shakespeare Library; Spirit Cabinet (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002); The Falling Hour (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997); Late Empire (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994); Mystery Train (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990); Glassworks (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987); and Icehouse Lights (Yale University Press, 1982), chosen by Richard Hugo as a winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize in 1982.

Of Wojahn’s winning book, Linda Gregerson said:

David Wojahn’s World Tree is a book of consummate vision and artistry. Exquisitely cadenced, politically astute, large of heart, and keen of mind, these are poems of extraordinary moral penetration. They are also a joy to read: David Wojahn is working at the height of his powers.

Wojahn is also the author of a collection of essays on contemporary poetry, Strange Good Fortune (University of Arkansas Press, 2001); editor (with Jack Myers) of A Profile of 20th Century American Poetry (Southern Illinois University Press, 1991); and editor of two posthumous collections of his wife Lynda Hull’s poetry, The Only World (HarperCollins, 1995) and Collected Poems (Graywolf, 2006), co-edited with Mark Doty.

Wojahn’s awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Virginia, Illinois, and Indiana Councils for the Arts, and an Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship.

Wojahn is presently a professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University and the director of the university’s MFA program. He is also a member of the program faculty of the MFA in writing program at Vermont College of the Fine Arts.

Date Published: 2011-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/august-1953