NOW ~ POEMS BY THOMAS SIMMONS
SAINT JULIAN PRESS is excited to announce that on May 1, 2017 we will be releasing NOW, a new book of poems by Thomas Simmons. Thomas served as an associate professor for the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies at MIT, and for over two decades in the Department of English at the University of Iowa.
He lives close to Iowa City, among four of his six children, who range in age from two to 30. His published works of nonfiction and scholarship include The Unseen Shore: Memories of a Christian Science Childhood (1992); A Season in the Air: One Man’s Adventures in Flying (1993); Erotic Reckonings: Mastery and Apprenticeship in the Work of Poets and Lovers (1994); Ghost Man: Reflections on Evolution, Love, and Loss (2001); The Burning Child: Essays on Mental Health and Illness (2005); Imperial Affliction: Eighteenth-Century British Poets and Their Twentieth- Century Lives (2010); and Poets’ First and Last Books in Dialogue (2012).
THE BODY AT REST
In the evening we are all of us our children,
Frightened of unconsciousness, the story's end.
This is the end of the story. Rest now.
We are inside human history, that infinitesimal
Shaft of light not yet past the Milky Way.
Forget the all in motion, forget that what we see
Shifts because we see it. Past Newton, who dreamed
Einstein but, too horrified at what he saw, dreamed
Aristotle in return, who liked things as they stayed.
The igneous rock outside his door could not be assayed
Except in its native stillness. Our stillness now.
We have fallen a long way, but see, now, how
Our mutual light recedes as our diminished sun
Appears to set. Some days it is enough to have done
Simply what we have done, and in our night
Begin to dream our journey past the speed of light.
It is one thing to observe the interstellar dark.
It is another thing entirely not to be observed by it,
To deduce its indifference to our being, to being—
You may say: “We make our own meaning.”
I have said it. But if I answer, “Nevertheless”
“What I most want is someone here when I awake,”
You may well laugh at the non-sequitur,
Wondering if I am serious or, well, merely
Morose. Merely. As if sadness did not
Soar out, impervious to gravity, well
Into interstellar space, only to find
That it had outstripped itself,
That it was now merely sadness
Without a context, without a name.
WHAT WAS THERE
And when it was done,
He set it, just there, on the table,
Between the two kerosene lamps.
Invisible, indivisible, it was his heart
Returned to its primal state.
Only he could see it. People
Came and went. He lit the lamps
Each night for its sake. No matter
Whether the people knew, whether
The poem knew. Poems know nothing.
They point toward things—most of them,
Most times, within the realm of the visible,
Or something just adjacent, love or the planet
On the table. This, this was wholly other.
He had made it to defy his life’s labour.
Thomas Simmons © 2016
Saint Julian Press, Inc.
Ron Starbuck is an author, poet, the Publisher-CEO of Saint Julian Press, and an Episcopalian.