Three Poems by Christian Wiman

To Eat the Awful While You Starve Your Awe

To eat the awful while you starve your awe,
to weasel misery like a suck of egg,

to be ebullience’s prick and leak,
a character pinched to characteristic,

hell-relisher, persimmon-sipper, sad Tom, sane Tom,
all day licking the cicatrix where your Tomhood lay.

Sundays at Smilow

Sundays are best.
The chemo drips
through the plastic tube
into the port implanted in my chest

and it is quiet, finally,
no one weeping
beyond the meaningless screens,
no one keeping

watch for a doctor
to tell them what one more
meaningless blood test means,
no swine of a man

emboldened by doom
grunting urges
to nurses,
no nurses consumed

with regularity or Ensure
or code-redding toward
someone’s spastic reactions
to their cure.

No cure.
The chemo drips
through the plastic tube
into the port implanted in my chest.

Sundays are best.

Three Ages


Who here is the finished man
whose hands know only what is gone?
All night he holds it as he can,
his losses lost again in song.


He ran a low-grade failure from forty on.
A symptom without a source, like existence.
It never slowed him down.
Articles, attitudes, books, belittlements,
the million-tentacled insect of sleep,
urine dawns, a bird called should-have-been . . .
I have suffered for my art!
It was like dying in a pillow fight.


Like lake ice
that under a brazen boy

begins to spider
and shudder

around his feet,
the silence is