Home > Poetry > West of the Soul
Published: Tue Jul 1 2003
Art by Jin Suk
West of the Soul

My soul, why are you still seventeen
and drifting like a dog after dark,
dragging a shadow you’ve found?

Put it back where it belongs,
and that bend of river, too. That’s not the road
you want, though you could have it to yourself

at this late hour. Gone are the cars
that crawl out of the desert from the reactors,
a parade of insects, metallic, fuming

along that Stygian four-lane street.
The poplars of the shelterbelt lean away
from the bypass that never had much to pass by,

neighbor to rabbit brush and coyote.
From my parents’ patio on the edge
of the upper world, from a lawn chair

left for a shade, we once saw neighborhoods
of stars light years away, light years ago.
Pinpricks stabbed in a map too dark to read—

listen. That hissing is just a sprinkler
damping down the latest layer of dust.
Soul, why do you always take the graveyard shift?

The cottonwoods shiver, or I do,
every leaf rustling as if it’s the one
about to tear itself from the past, not I.

Debora Greger is the author of eight books of poetry, recently including Men, Women, and Ghosts (Penguin, 2008) and Western Art (Penguin, 2004). She has won awards including the Grolier Prize and the Discovery/The Nation Award, and has received grants from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. (updated 7/2010)

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