the louderARTS Project


Mark Doty

Mark Doty's seven books of poetry and three books of nonfiction prose have been honored by the National Book Critics Circle Award, the T. S. Eliot Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, a Lila Wallace/Readers' Digest Writing Award, and the PEN Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction. He's received fellowships from the Guggenheim, Fulbright, Rockefeller and Ingram-Merrill Foundations, and from the National Endowment for the Arts                   

He has taught at Columbia University , Sarah Lawrence College , New York University of Iowa Writers Workshop . He is currently John and Rebecca Moores Professor in the graduate program at the University of Houston. His new collection of poems, School of the Arts , was published by HarperCollins in 2005.



THE WORD

White cotton cap, immaculate shoes

and stockings, black coat over starched dress

 -- nun nurse lab worker -- she holds the book open

 

in front of her, looking down

through thick-rimmed black glasses,

covertly taking stock of who takes stock of her,

 

spine of the holy text in her left hand,

dark right forefinger tapping a random

or necessary passage, how has she chosen it?

 

I would say she beats out a Jeremiad, cannot

or will not speak and so this repeated iteration

is her form of witness, save that in her insistence

 

she is striking with the hard tap of her fingernail,

over and over, wearing the ink away

until the pages tear, lower half of the thin pages

 

tatted, as if mice had been shredding

the blessings and prohibitions for a nest,

ceaseless, the revelation that drives her

 

so implacable she has no choice but to stand

pointing to or punishing the book or both,

she insists on revelation while tearing away at the word

 

that is everything to her and it does not deliver her and

therefore she must go on wounding the book

in public, her art, displayed for us, unvarying,

 

 

in the station at 34th Street and Sixth Avenue,

a bitter night just after the turn of the year.


Mark Doty