For the sun, which will burn out or run down

or dramatically implode in a future

epoch about as awful as this one.  For

the one-antlered deer that expired en-route

to an upstate sanctuary because

why not.  For the sequoia tunnel tree

which was uprooted in a storm

the other day.  For my boyhood fantasy

of driving through it.  For California.

For this sadness.  This joy.  This

bucket on the floor.  For the industry

which will most harm you

upon its inevitable demise.

For the pet rabbits who died

in grotesque cages

in our backyard.  For the school

that burned down.  For the lake

in my dreams which is always frozen.

For the pained myth

of your birth.  For this new year.

Which isn’t new at all.

Which will be the same

as last year and the one before it.

And so on.  For the air

inside my mouth shaped like nothing.

For the bell ringing

through the early rain.

For each unheeded warning.  For sweet

love, which seems ever more

impossible.  For Norway,

which has shut down all its FM broadcasts.

For silence, which nobody

truly values.  For the song

I couldn’t recognize in the elevator,

though all I could do was ache.

For the night, which becomes more immense

and depressing and utter

and the voices in it which argue and argue.

For this conflict with the stars.

For ashes.  For the wind.

For this emergency we call life.

Illustration by Ansellia Kulikku. Source image from "St. Nicholas," published in 1873. Digitized by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Paul Guest

Paul Guest is the author of three collections of poetry and a memoir. His poems appear in Poetry, The Paris Review, New England Review, North American Review, and elsewhere. A Guggenheim Fellow and Whiting Award winner, he teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia.