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Mary Jo Salter

"Wake" [by Stephen Kampa, with commentary from Mary Jo Salter]

<< Here’s a poem that begins like a children’s rhyme (we might think of “Here is the church, here is the steeple”) and has the fun of rhyming “uglies” with “snugglies.”  Yet how quickly it turns to a terrifying vision of God bidding the earth goodbye in what is a literal “final wave.”  That is, a tsunami—which only Stephen Kampa would rhyme with “origami.”  It’s typical of Kampa’s dark wit that he turns that charming paper art into a deadly card game.  You know you’re in trouble when God himself shrugs, “this hasn’t worked, I fold.” >> -- Mary Jo Salter


Here are the random couples bumping uglies,
     And here, prayer circles squeezing hands;
Here are the children curled up in their snugglies,
          And here, tuxedoed bands
Are sweating through their set-to-end-all-sets
     Now that the news of the tsunami
Has been confirmed. God’s sent us his regrets
          As global origami—

Sorry, my ducks, this hasn’t worked, I fold—
     And now we grow enraged or grave
As we see fit, quaking before the cold
          Wall of God’s final wave.
I dreamt all this, bedridden, wrung with heat.
     Since I awoke, I can’t erase
The sight of God pulling that huge blue sheet
          Over the world’s face.

Stephen Kampa holds a BA in English Literature from Carleton College and an MFA in Poetry from The Johns Hopkins University. His first book, Cracks in the Invisible, won the 2010 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize and the 2011 Gold Medal in Poetry from the Florida Book Awards. His second book, Bachelor Pad (2014 ), and his third, Articulate as Rain (2018), appeared from The Waywiser Press. Kampa has been playing harmonica for twenty years and was named the 2012 Florida Harmonica Championships Overall Champion. He has worked as the harmonica player for a variety of bands, including Robert “Top” Thomas & the Swamp Kings, Victor Wainwright & the WildRoots, and the Old Kings. His session work appears most recently on Wildroots Sessions, Vol. 1.  He teaches English at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. 

December 15, 2021

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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