Paul Guest, “Nothing”

Between Buck Owens and Vivaldi what’s left
to listen to but the stars, so I do, dialing
the radio down to indeterminate static,
what I always thought was absence, an aria
of sizzling nothingness. Instead
it’s the Milky Way radiating arrhythmia
all the way back. It’s gossip
of the vacuum. That nothing has ever been

truly nothing is why I believe,
even still, in love. Beside two rivers
I have lived nearly all my life
and these beneath one sky
muttering its endless alphabet of sine waves.
Jupiter with its flock of moons
and the stone from which we hope
to squeeeze one drop of water,
red Mars pulsing in the blank field of night—

I’ve wanted to leave Earth
behind, gravity’s orphan at last,
but not Earth with its two good seasons and two bad
and not its angel-winged clams
luminous in the mud bed of a river
so distant from me
I can’t remember where
that water is, except that I’ve dreamed it,
except that in it I sank

all the way down.

paul-guest-headshot.jpgThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution created a slideshow to Guest’s reading of “Nothing” on the occasion of his winning the Whiting Prize last November.

From Notes for My Body Double, the winner of the 2006 Prairie Schooner Book Prize for Poetry. Last week, Guest sold a new collection, to be called My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge, to Ecco, along with a memoir, One More Theory of Happiness. “I am amazed and excited,” he says of the two-book deal. “[It] seemed like sci-fi, me who is used to contributor’s copies as payment. I was excited about an 80 dollar check the other day: lunch for the week! So I am still adjusting.”

Guest has appeared often at Verse Daily, and The Adirondack Review has published two of Guest’s poems online: “Notes For My Body Double” and “Pluto’s Loss.” From the Fishouse has an ample selection of Guest MP3s. Not to mention all the new work that shows up on his own blog.

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26 January 2008 | poetry |