Madison resident Sean Bishop, winner of the Council for Wisconsin Writers’ 2014 Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award, reads from his book of poems, The Night We’re Not Sleeping In (Sarabande Books) at the CWW Awards Luncheon in May. Below are the two poems he read.
HERE’S TO KILLING
Here’s to killing. Here’s to screeching
rubber-burned through happy standers-by,
to the bomb like a small sun
born above the city. Here’s to murder,
manslaughter, the lexicon of –cides: where Cain
slinks back from the lamb-specked pasture,
a prince goes epileptic over bitter wine, or a boy
drops the gun by his wound-bleached mother.
Here’s to the noose, to the mortar, to the spear
so patient in its palm-draped pit,
to the death ray arriving from a distant planet
to melt the trees into brownish scum. Friends,
here’s to killing—not because it’s fun,
but because the days fill up with static,
because the limbs go numb from sitting,
because anyway we can’t run
from the inside-out gas creeping through the city
or the tumors that swallow our bowels as we sleep—
because, at last, we must succumb. And so
we have a duty: To break. To bleed. To go
quietly dumb in our book-lined studies
or cough ’til our lungs give up their longing.
Which is to say, we must receive.
So here’s to giving.
NOTES TOWARD BASIC BETTERNESS
The way the anglerfish might rather be
just the light it hangs in the Atlantic night,
or the moon might want to live as only
the cloistered stones adored by NASA,
today in this inner-life dusk I’d like
to become a smaller, simpler portion of myself.
Pretty soon now the day will dim down
to its little black dress and slink toward darker needs,
lurching high-heeled with a cruel thug ’til dawn
and smashing all the neighbors’ windows.
For once, dear bitterness, I think I’d like
not to forgive it, exactly, but at least allow its fact—
the way the girl burned by the bombings learns
to live only among her basic beauties,
and not the way the pilot opening the hatch
inhabited entirely the motive for the war.
What today wants, maybe, is no part of itself
at all, but the idea of its dayness,
like the couple in bed who want so much
to be for an hour the space they’ve built between them.
How every atom envies light.
How the moon, now that I think of it,
might rather be the golf ball abandoned on its surface,
or one just like it: a dimpled concept of itself
the people of Earth can hold and consider,
so it might feel at last what I
am feeling for you right now,
Here’s a link to Sean’s book: http://www.sarabandebooks.org/new-forthcoming/the-night-were-not-sleeping-in-sean-bishop-2
Congratulations to Sean. More information about CWW and its annual contests is at www.wiswriters.org.