Today in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor Shane McCrae features a poem by Derek Gromadzki. About Gromadzki’s work, McCrae writes: “A few weeks ago, Derek told me he was just about to finish the manuscript of his first book. I’ve been reading Derek’s poems eagerly for years now, and I’ve thought him ready for a book as long. The sound he makes is his own; his poems are unlike any poems that I know of being written today. Each word bears a weight most poets wouldn’t dare—his lyricism arises from the point at which post-L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E verbal atomization and the stanza-shaping music characteristic of medieval lyrics meet. I can’t get enough of his sound, and I can’t wait for his book.”


                                                       holes  on  behalf  of  cinerary  resistance
                   flicker a caprice of  orbs and amber  distilled  in  lanterns
                             kindled to charcoal sockets that deposit lees onto our
listening  and  our  cries  singed by wicks  aspire to distended beacons
  sooner than fray
                reverts  to  advent  and  attared  wax
                                         ideas of circle top out shallow
                                                                 slipping away from absolutes
                                                                     across sextons’ tufts in points like lines


                                 lines  like arcs  and wend we widen in wonder
                                                    below  circumspect  cross sections  of ashlar chutes 
          wedged  up  with  nothing constricting
                           lissome  whists  around  corkscrew shadows
           to hazard  a glance  at  patched atmosphere
                           as  radiance  stains  through a glass lightly
                                                          with all the fragile mimicry of life in pictures
                            how saints have bent slender  here  under orisons  and  absence
          over which appearance tips  and  we  the  steadying


         motley  processions  to  promises  trippingly
    pronounced  concerning  spaces
                                           or  the  escape  from  spaces  into  learned  verse
         for  the  learned  and  ruth  for  those  who  fumble  through  depiction
                      spilled  onto  panes  too  eagerly
                                                            grist  for  the  diversions  of  crystal
                                                              abate  affect  with  a  makeshift  kilter
                                           and  into  grooves
                                        defile from lunettes  trussed  too  briefly


                                                                              to  specter  contingent  too  briefly
                                           held  for  ideals  only  becoming  by  unlimited  chance
             we  concede  our  exhalations  to  iron  arms
                                                                     that  trail  from  chiseled  figures
                    and  figures  that  affix  a  quivering  leer
                                   to  oratory  ungently  divined  by  alchemical  keys
                                                                          enigmas  and  tinctures  of  mercury
                                               asperge  our antiphons
                                                                released  toward  ellipses


                  jagged duration and  indecisions  in  a  threshold  gasp
                          as  the  pepper  of  incense  approaches
                                              oblique  contortions in no positive hue to breach
                                                                             trance and  transience  suborned
                                  by  the  merit  of  these  many  relics
                     when  oil and oil’s scents  were story enough
                                                                                 a viscous  quickening
                    among disused sentences and intonations from solitude
                 where  things  maintain the limits of actions
                                                                     and we of what composure if not of  lumen
                                                         brushed from columbine that ends on altars


                              in  keener  demarcations  than  forms  of  farewell
                          strange  natures that made us parts of ourselves
                                                 retire disquiet       twist a silhouette
                                             to  the  screws  of  doxy
                                                               and swill deep  drafts  of  fog  intermingling with afterimage
                               stranded  on  miscast  regard                   an  inevitable  error
                            against  a  feverish  wish  and  a  want  like  porcelain
                                                      here before  hearing  ceased  or  almost  and  humming
                                                                                           visions  set a rival up  to


                                                     rites declined from immanence and inclination
                                                                                     spin rippled looks that comb
                                           over surfaces at angles tangent to our own
              and hang on silent to the censer’s inscription 
                      in open aisles swung depended from undeterred
                                                                                  ties at the invention of vapor
                                                          with word and gesture gesture and faint predictions
                                                                that we bend to furnish swerves
                     escape into chime and hesitate
                           among finials stalled in final bloom
                                                    as the rushlights dwindle and commit to fetters

Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they’re published.