Poem as a Field of Action by Berwyn Moore


“Poem as a Field of Action” by Berwyn Moore


We seek profusion, the Mass—ill-assorted—breathless—grasping at all kinds of things—as if—like Audubon shooting some little bird, really only to look at it the better. —William Carlos Williams, “The Poem as a Field of Action”


I had not been thinking of death 

        when they stung – three wasps hiding 

                in the folds of my shirt, quiet as plaid 


until the last button, buttoned. Who’s 

        to say this isn’t true? What’s missing 

                is the witness, the flash of corroboration, 


the fragments of wing and stinger settling 

        on the indifferent oak grain. I had been 

                thinking of Voltaire, how he fainted 


at the first sniff of a rose, of tongue prints, 

        how each is unique, yet there I sat, stunned,

                 uncertain of anything except twelve 


rising welts, twelve – the number of stings 

        it took to unbutton one noisy shirt, fling 

                it off. And then I thought of Saint Agnes, 


muzzled and dragged to the fire at twelve, 

        her accusers stymied by the hair growing 

                to shroud her nakedness as she gave 


her body up, smiling, to her Lord. And who’s 

        to say this isn’t true? Here’s where we 

                corroborate: we all muddle tales, hobble 


rickety bridges of time and space, grasp and tear 

        the scrim of doubt. We seek profusion, little birds, 

                impertinent facts, safe shirts, hands busy 


with clay or bread, and we blunder upon 

        miracles of hair and love, honeysuckle, 

                a flutter of eyelashes on a wrist—


and we sing—all of us saints—our abundant arms 

        reaching toward bodies,    surrendered 

                and buoyant, bodies rising.




Share your response to this work, in any form, here


Berwyn Moore’s Artist Statement: Berwyn Moore won the 2015 James Dickey Prize from Five Points Journal. She has published two poetry collections, O Body Swayed and Dissolution of Ghosts (Cherry Grove Collections), and edited the anthology Dwelling in Possibility: Voices of Erie County. She served as the inaugural Poet Laureate of Erie County, Pennsylvania, from 2009 to 2010. Her poems have won awards from the Bellevue Literary Review, The Pinch Literary Journal, Margie: The American Journal of Poetry, and Negative Capability Press. She has poetry and prose published in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Poetry Northwest, Nimrod, Journal of the American Medical Association, Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review and Public Health Reports. She teaches English at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Author: A Room of Her Own

Share This Post On