Monday, 23 May 2022

American Life in Poetry: In Such a Way That

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Eric Pankey, in his poem, ​“In Such a Way That,” par­tic­i­pates in one of the rit­u­als prac­ticed by poets the world over — the mark­ing of the chang­ing sea­sons.

The tran­si­tions from win­ter to spring, from rainy-sea­son to dry-sea­son, from mon­soon to autumn and from har­mat­tan to spring, are announced with poems rich with inti­ma­tions of begin­nings and end­ings.

This poem bor­rows, with sub­tle­ty, from the bib­li­cal can­ti­cles and psalms asso­ci­at­ed with the ves­pers, invok­ing grat­i­tude and con­fes­sion in a space where con­tra­dic­tions and ​“dou­ble assign­ments” (entan­gle­ments and lodg­ings, shel­ters and stag­ing grounds) abound. In the end, there is some com­fort, for Pankey, in the chang­ing sea­sons and in these remem­bered prayers.

In Such a Way That
By Eric Pankey

Winter ends with a miscellany’s logic: a leaden horizon,
A narrow but unbridgeable distance.

Stolen moments are exchanged for isolated hours,
Elaborate entanglements, a lodging.

One’s suitable room fulfills a double assignment
As a stage and shelter. The heady pollen of stargazer lilies

Covers the bureaus, the desktop, and end tables.
Beyond the window, the sacred mountain

Is depleted of snow. On a frequency
At the far end of the dial, one can hear

Vespers, and recall the little Latin one learned long ago,
Knowing even then it would come in handy


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Eric Pankey, “In Such a Way That” from The Georgia Review, Winter 2020. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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