This month for Poetry 365 we’re highlighting Robert Pinsky’s masterful new book At the Foundling Hospital. With meditations on the gods, jazz, boyhood memories and “arbitrary” names, this latest collection from the three-term U.S. Poet Laureate boldly examines time, history, and the fluid identities of both single individuals and entire civilizations. Trim, erudite, and musically energetic, these thirty poems are a clear reminder why Louise Glück proclaimed that “Robert Pinsky is one of the few literary artists… whose work is unquestionably major work.” So don’t miss this outstanding new book, sample a poem below, and make sure to stop back next month for Poetry 365.
Aspiring, beset by failures, a Crow warrior
Longed for a vision to bequeath his children.
He fasted. He sang. He sliced some flesh from his finger
So Owl or Badger might eat it, and pay him back
With dream medicine for generations–as when,
Abed, becalmed, from nowhere we might think words
Of foregoers like Julius Marx: “What has posterity
Ever done for me?”–beguiling, acerbic.
Playing with a hatchet, I blundered a sliver of meat
Off my own fingertip, then gave false witness:
I blamed another boy for wielding the hatchet.
I was afraid of Truth itself. Months later
I tried to come clean, I told my father I lied.
He didn’t seem impressed, in fact he seemed
Barely to listen. Maybe he knew already.
Or maybe Spider had eaten that piece of me
And spun a web to hex my father’s hearing.
Or maybe it’s just that he was watching TV.
Around the same time, from the Ford’s back seat,
I asked him, did he believe in Life after Death?
His eyes in the rear-view mirror kind of shrugged,
“I don’t know, probably not,” he said. “Or maybe
Look at it this way: you are my life after death”–
Innocent yet adept. Bemused. Abrupt.