Monday, March 24

In the Spotlight: Marianne Boruch

One of our latest columns from American Life in Poetry was a piece by my former teacher, Marianne Boruch. What an evocative and almost elusive poem. It was a delight to work on the introduction.


The American poet Elizabeth Bishop often wrote of how places—both familiar and foreign—looked, how they seemed. Here Marianne Boruch of Indiana begins her poem in this way, too, in a space familiar to us all but made new—made strange—by close observation.


It seems so—
I don't know. It seems
as if the end of the world
has never happened in here.
No smoke, no
dizzy flaring except
those candles you can light
in the chapel for a quarter.
They last maybe an hour
before burning out.
And in this room
where we wait, I see
them pass, the surgical folk—
nurses, doctors, the guy who hangs up
the blood drop—ready for lunch,
their scrubs still starched into wrinkles,
a cheerful green or pale blue,
and the end of a joke, something
about a man who thought he could be—
what? I lose it
in their brief laughter.

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