Michael McIrvin

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Dreaming the Poetess
                        For Maggie Jaffe (1948-2011)

In a place like the mind, switch-
blade precision and ocean vastness at once (no,
saturated with the terror of being), she balanced
on the precipice of a new kind of knowing
but could not budge for fear.

She felt like a fisherman on the void, her
line trailing through sweat and jism and heart-
wreck, through her foundering belief
in meaning, both hoping to hook and afraid
to hook the Leviathan rumored to swim
in the night-beyond-night.

Then it did not matter. The great beast-
fish burst from under where she sat
and gobbled her whole. No prayers to light.
No tears for the turning earth that will spin
long after we all are thus swallowed, by grief
and the dawning horror that the impending
silence, soon to stretch from here to everywhere,
might be the sea of banality every authentic poet fears.


She said, I possess only one word, no two words,
and they are an excuse to go forward. I rub
them together to keep warm. No, to feel rich. No,
to feel something less than completely broke
and alone in this dimming interior. I shed
light like a star. I turn cartwheels. I sing
like a mermaid rides a wave, half
submerged and unafraid.

In a place imbued (no, stained) with the wonder
of being until the stain becomes the whole, the poetess
discovered a country beyond prayer. No,
beyond meaning, beyond deep-water silence
filled with the potential for music and provisional
sense born as sparks where two words meet. She said,

Hold these words to you gently but hard as iron. Say
them over and over. Love and decay. No, emptiness
and truth. No, time and blood. No and yes.
The infinite (sacred) land between.


Michael McIrvin is the author of five poetry collections, including Optimism Blues: Poems
Selected and New, the essay collection Whither American Poetry, and two
novels. His most recent book is the novel The Blue Man Dreams the End of
Time. Michael lives with his wife Sharon on the high plains of Wyoming.