Issue 8 – Summer 2005 – Stephen Burt

Stephen Burt


After Reznikoff

Sixth Avenue, midmorning: car exhaust
Makes pixels in thick air; the sudden shade
Of awnings; scattered cereal and seeds
Lie fresh across the sidewalk underneath.

One pigeon struts, his confident bright crop
Extended towards a second, worn and squat;
The first edges the other
Into visibility
And into the sun, away from the trails of grain.



Paper Anniversary
for Jessica Bennett

             Pale rain retraces Chelsea, and a pale
receding sky the color of new bread;
             sharp buds on the new rosebush—pinks,
enticing whites: the same
             new colors as the flowers fully spread.


Self Portrait as Kitty Pryde

I have been identified
as gifted & dangerous. People fight over me
but not in the ways I want. Who would expect
it in a girl from Deerfield, Illinois,
town of strict zoning, no neon & quality schools?
I pass through difficult physical laws, cement,
flames, cupboards, crowds, tree trunks & arguments,
precociously, like something to protect.
I am always going through some phase.

My best friend spent apprentice years
alone inside a study like a star.
My wide eyes & Jewish hair
are shyness, a challenge to artists, &
untouchable. I can slip out of the back of a car.
When I am tired I dance, or pace
barefoot on the civilian ground
of Salem Center, where rain falls through me.
I have begun to learn to walk on air.

Adventures overemphasize my age.
In my distant & plausible future I will bear
one child, scorn, twenty-five pounds
of technology on my back, & the further weight
of giving orders to a restless band
of misfits who save America from its own rage
but cannot save themselves, & stay up late.
My friends & the fate of the world will have come to rest,
unexpected, staccato, in my sophomore hands.



Stephen Burt’s second book of verse, Parallel Play, ought to come out from Graywolf in February ’06. He teaches at Macalester College in St. Paul.