Deborah Warren's poems have appeared, or will appear, in America, The Atlanta
Review, Commonweal, Cumberland Poetry Review, Edge City Review, The Formalist,
Orbis, The Paris Review, Sparrow, and other journals. She was
the runner-up for the 1998 Robert Penn Warren Poetry Prize and the 2000 T. S.
Eliot Prize. In 2001 she received the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award from The Formalist.
Clay and Flame
"Nature . . . has mixed us of clay and flame,
of brain and mind." — William James
Up from the mineral mud and ore,
from mildew and bacterium
and mold and thallophyte and spore
to fungus, rust and diatom;
from moss and fern and flowering seed
to coral, fluke and sponge, and from
flatworm and snail and centipede
to fish to swamp, until we come
to mouse, to monkey—to the brain
that grew in tandem with the thumb:
To tell exactly how we came
from clay is easy. But explain
the place inside the cranium
where all that clay turns into flame.
Published in The New Criterion
Dido, It Would Have Ended Anyway
Dido, it would have ended anyway.
Command the sun to linger at its crest
in hot abeyance—order noon to stand
stopped, as if there isn’t any west—
maybe you can get it to obey.
Not love. There’s never been an almanac
that tells when an Aeneas (overdue
in Latium) will leave. No, faithfulness
is for Achates: Love? It barely tops
its hottest summer height before it drops—
as your desire—burnt out—would have, too.
Try something easier, for practice; try
to anchor the daylight and hold the bright ship back
that carries the sun across the windy sky.
Published in The New Criterion
Technology Conversation With My Father (1910 - )
E-mail’s so great, I said; however far
you send it, it can reach its destination
in a second.
He said his first car
worked with "planetary-type" transmission:
epicyclic gears, wheels within wheels,
each small thing moving in a greater thing—
like planets’ orbits (whose own centers sail
on the circumferences of larger rings,
For some astronomers,
the souls in heaven could hear, in harmony,
concentric hollow globes. Technology
moves on; space-age consumers could do worse,
grounded in compact disks, than shift their gears
and trade up to the music of the spheres.
Published in Orbis
He was a boy who had a way with games.
His fluent body spoke their languages—
lacrosse, track, soccer . . . Polymath of fields,
he stumbled when indoors and motionless
and blocked by furniture, his fumbled words
murmured and uncertain. Where the talk
ran surefooted, talkers would strain to catch
the sprained and muted syllables he spoke.
He had an ear for the javelin—perfect pitch—
and sang through polyathlons, but the play
of phrases passed across a table stilled
and petrified him. His halt words would weigh
his thoughts like dumb-bells; their soft ring would scare
him off-side of ideas he’d chip and break.
He’s outside now—outside all living rooms.
He needs a Polyclitus, now, to make
him move again, to make him vault the air
in stone translated to muscle’s mobile grace.
Now it would strain a marble heart to bear
this quiet boy in death’s hard carapace.
Published in Cumberland Poetry Review