Monday, August 08, 2005

Joshua Weiner

Just returned from a week at the FAWC in P-town, and I tell you I did not want to come back. Poetry workshop in the morning, afternoons on the beach reading and writing, evenings listening to readings and watching slide shows of visual artists. I heard the stories of Grace Paley, the poetry of Joshua Weiner and Robert Pinsky, the fiction of Julia Glass, and saw slides of block prints by Peik Larsen. Others who read during the week were Norman Mailer, Mark Wunderlich (my workshop leader), and Mary Oliver. Can you imagine such a lineup? What a week. And I have several new drafts of poems to work on.

I'm going to feature a few poems by the writers who were at FAWC this week, starting with Joshua Weiner. This poem is from his book The World's Room, University of Chicago press, p. 61:

Bruno's Night

Up the hill of snoring
The father climbs in dream,
The mother sinks in silence
And baby sucks its thumb.

But struggling next door
Boy Bruno smells the dawn
While the sick, the sad, the torn
Apart quiet their song.

Dropped curtains hide the night's
Inspired fantastic pomp
That liquidates with light--
Don't oversleep--Wake up!

Run to the grimy window,
Press your nose to the dirt.
Under the dawn: you follow
The mass of gathering earth.

This is the last poem in the book, and it ends on such a poignant, and somewhat ambiguous, note. I imagine this boy in a home of persistent struggle and sadness, perhaps even brutality and/or poverty. The father "climbs" only in dreams, the mother "sinks," and the ungendered baby shares their room. Bruno's window is "grimy" and dirty. He is a boy of amazing sensitivity--he can smell dawn breaking--and he forces himself to wake up so he won't miss it. He ignores the dirt on the window, putting his nose right in it, so he can watch not the dawn itself, but the earth as it pulls together under the rising light.

This boy finds beauty in a world full of cramped struggle, and he finds it not in the transcendent faraway sky, but down on the earth itself. He can find joy in a world that so far has forced him to look for it. I wonder about the future for Bruno. His sensitivity is what allows him to uncover the world's wonder, but it is also what will make him vulnerable to its brutality.


Danny Sillada said...

Bruno reminds me of a boy in me a long time ago... Thanks for sharing this poem by Joshua Weiner.

You have a vivid and sensitive commentary.

Anonymous Poet said...

Sounds like a cool time!