Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh
Tom Sleigh's Space Walk (Houghton Mifflin, 2008) won the Kingsley Tufts Award. His new book, Army Cats, is forthcoming in April of 2011. He has won many awards, including the Shelley Prize, and grants from the Lila Wallace Fund, an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is this year's inaugural recipient of the John Updike Award from the American Academy. He teaches in the M.F.A. program at Hunter College.

Paradoxes (an excerpt)


Up in the attic was where gravity hid.
When you bounced on the bedsprings, you soared
into outer space, things would open wide  

and you'd lay back and stare at your dead friend
floating weightless in the air—though he wasn't
really there, just a version of Rex who hanged

himself with the puppy's rope and whose bike
you borrowed for the day. The radio announced
his death and that you'd found him, though they

got your ages wrong: you were nine, not ten!
And then you'd sit up and crawl under the bedsprings
and look up through them into the dead boy's eyes

as if you were the dead one pinned to the earth
and spreading out above you he was all space
darkening to the bruised blue of his face.



Sub-zero mist settles down on the pond,
a mist so thick and bright that when you skate
through it your body carves a corridor

in the shape of your silhouette that hangs
immobile: a good skater's passage is straight
and true, but a wobbly-ankled stutter step

goes all crooked through the fog, abruptly stops—
marking where the skater tripped and fell.
And after we've gone home, a big boy's corridor

shouldering aside a smaller one's while moonlight
comes swarming down through the gray, you'd swear
you could tell by their shoulders' set and sway

just who had passed this way on their big double blades,
giving their bodies to the momentum
that carried them along and out of sight.



What was Jesus writing in the dust? The magic hand
of Jesus writing something down? Maybe what would happen next
to you and her as she sat there beside you on the naugahyde  

and cried and Jesus kept on writing until a great stone
rolled down on him from Heaven and crushed him?
The Bible didn't tell you so but Jesus was the stone, Jesus

was the President riding in the car, Jesus was the holes
in the President's throat and head, Jesus was the television
floating down from out of heaven that brought to you

the bullets and the horses dragging the coffin
to be buried in the red letters of Jesus' words
bleeding on the black and white skull of the President.

She cried on the couch and you sat there watching
Jesus writing in the dust like the dust you wrote
your name in before the dustrag came along and wiped it out.