The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Marianne Boruch

On Halos

                             --for Mary Szybist and Jerry Harp


More halos than these days.

Something understood: keep the dark
a little distant, plus a stab at marking, a Who’s Who
of unlikely fabulous beings.

Such old paintings. And the lucky ones--
Are they lucky? Past human or pre-human
lit that way, sitting intent enough where
going blank could equal patience, tables piled
with bread, goblets of shade.
Or they stand around lush courtyards. And beyond,
what deserts offer up--
one tree, a few leaves, a lot of expanse
drifting off into that vague horizon I’ve heard
plenty about. Oils take months, years
to dry out. To be
means to wait and to wait.

The artist’s work, the real work—
those orbits each time depending on the thought
in faces, the ones
who watch, the ones about to speak what’s never
been said or it’s the kneejerk song
and story. Confess. Maybe not murder,
not that particular seizing up. But a low-grade
alarm or ecstasy in some.

Halos keep haloing. Zigzags or
simple circles, a luminous wisp pulled constant,
to curve. Or a plate pure
shiny gold behind each head like
cardboard cut and sprayed from a can for
a really dumb school project.

The painters aren’t reverent. Better, they’re
earnest and love the outrageous
layers of things. A halo: to see in the dark
and be perfect, a standard
miraculous skill right up there with—
Pick one: flying through clouds, arms

straight out past stray birds thinking you’re
the lunatic, or going invisible
in a crowd of the jubilant, the depressed, the mean,
the sweet, the relentlessly self-absorbed.
Then there’s talking with animals again, having
that conversation I like
to have with them about the end of everything—

the planet, the slow
afternoon going nowhere.

Brushstroke. Brushstroke….

And what would a cat do but
curl up in the usual
medieval pool of light. Probably on a bed.




MARIANNE BORUCH's nine poetry collections include the recent Eventually One Dreams the Real Thing; Cadaver, Speak; and The Book of Hours, a Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award winner, all from Copper Canyon Press. Her work’s appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, London Review of Books, American Poetry Review, The Nation, The New York Review of Books and elsewhere. A former Guggenheim and NEA Fellow, she teaches in the MFA programs at Purdue University and Warren Wilson College.



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