Warren Wilson College News

For Steve Orlen

Practice
By Ellen Bryant Voight

To weep unbidden, to wake
at night in order to weep, to wait
for the whisker on the face of the clock
to twitch again, moving
the dumb day forward—

is this merely practice?
Some believe in heaven,
some in rest.  We’ll float,
you said.  Afterward
we’ll float between two worlds—

five bronze beetles
stacked like spoons in one
peony blossom, drugged by lust:
if I came back as a bird
I’d remember that—

until everyone we love
is safe is what you said.

“Practice” is reprinted with permission from Ellen Bryant Voigt’s MESSENGER: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS 1996-2006.  It was first collected in her 2001 volume, SHADOW OF HEAVEN, with a dedication to Steve Orlen.

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