May 2000

Sharon Kraus


Sharon Kraus Sharon Kraus's book, Generation, was published by Alice James Books in 1997. Other poems of hers have appeared in TriQuarterly, Agni, Barrow Street, The Georgia Review, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere, and are forthcoming in Quarterly West and elsewhere. She teaches at Queens College, CUNY. 

The Fight    Click to hear in real audio

Philosopher Giordano Bruno (1566-1600) asked "What would happen if you put your hand through the surface of the heavens?" For positing that the universe is finite, Bruno was arrested by the Inquisition in Venice, imprisoned for 7 years in Rome, and burned in the public square on February 17, 1600.

On the third day of the fight
that had begun over an apostrophe,
it was night in the room, he came in
dripping rain and not looking at me,
and we sat on the couch a long time
in the seventh month of our marriage,
and I had wanted to believe
some basic things about marriage—
not that it was a guarantee
but that it might at least increase the probability of
not being left, and that this other creature,
though also wracked, might spare me
a particular terror, an infinite terror: of un-
tetheredness. Think of the universe
expanding, which means stepping outside
itself, but outside is only
more it. You can see how those Iberians a few centuries ago,
for example, would rather watch a human burn,
twisting candlewick, than wander through the dark reaches
of starry shapelessness. Where is the Hand on the Head? Where is
the Container of the 56 celestial spheres? So when he said
he didn't love me, and I sat beside him in the dark,
and my throat and lungs produced the howls like a dog's howls,
it wasn't about love, because how do I know what love is? it was
that he had put his fist through the surface of the skies.
And after that, nothing happened.



The Portent    Click to hear in real audio

Come look, he said, so I stood beside him on the doorstep
in the sharp night air, just as the other people stood,
in pairs and clusters, murmuring on their doorsteps,
and the traffic's red blinks, and feathers of mist
brushed the pavement, where in the morning the earthworms  
     would lay fainting,
and he pointed into the sky—an invisible line
arced from his outstretched finger
toward the visible past, the candling lives of stellar bodies—
to show me that untethered moon tearing the sky
the way a needle parts the fibers
in its work of mending, the comet dragging
a little light in from the other side—

                                                             And I could see
why they had trembled, in the last millennium, when the
     long-haired star
crossed their hearts' waters: There's so much
we don't know. For example,
whether the trail of light that marks the comet's
dying shows how we also,
struck loose, are shedding our substance as we go. Maybe
slightly burning.
When I took his arm then, he leaned into me
and I don't know if he was frightened, I don't know
whether he saw that great animate grief above us
is a warning, or whether he took comfort
from momentarily leaning against another
as we hurtle through space. But the neighbors were hushed
under their lamplights, and I could still see
those other figures,
clothed in skins, their few remaining spears
at their feet and their protector
fallen; they stood
heads tilted back, at the edge
of their country, and the sky torn
open: they were holding each other
by the waist and shoulder—for warmth,
and to steady each other
for the walk into the lost field.



Sharon Kraus: Poetry
Copyright � 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 11The Cortland Review