South is adventure, north cold but also shelter,
and in the west
an end. It is south then north then west, the trail.
East is finished. To tell it right
it must be half in green
ignorance and half beneath the groan of a wheel
still turning and stained by smoke. The tone of it
is that everyone’s been turned out from somewhere
and afterward crossed a place they ran wire across
and a place they built a rotwood storm-closet,
and pounding atop where a mass grave was made
too small and then on to a place
nothing startles the horses.
You can put a pistol to one and leave it shrugging
in a stand of alfalfa
and not one other moves near or away. And then
south of course
are long plains of plain men and plain women all
hatless and gunbroke. Blood livens them
to themselves, their own hard lips, their own cold
singing. They build a city to hold it, and somehow
A graduate of Harvard Law School and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Seth Abramson is the author of two previous poetry collections, Northerners (Western Michigan University Press, 2011), winner of the 2010 Green Rose Prize, and The Suburban Ecstasies (Ghost Road Press, 2009). Currently Series Co-Editor for Best American Experimental Writing (Omnidawn, 2014), he is also a contemporary poetry reviewer for The Huffington Post and a regular contributor to Poets & Writers magazine. He has published work in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best New Poets 2008, Poetry, American Poetry Review, New American Writing, Colorado Review, and Harvard Review. A former public defender, he is now a doctoral candidate in English Literature at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The above poem is reprinted from Abramson’s collection Thievery (University of Akron Press, 2013) by permission of the author.