Again Is the First Time
It is possible to have everything,like listening for a music in the music.Somehow I am walking down Pattonand Walnut, and somehow it is there—the primordial quivering, catching a whiffof magnitude down a side street:a quality of sun and air, or the pairingof two dead leaves on the sidewalk just so.Turning, I pass a woman in a turtleneck,a dog tied to a bench and findthe man who owes me twenty dollars.It is possible to have everything, or at leasttwenty dollars, which is also everythingwhen I spend it on a Death in the Afternoonfor my wife and myself, the champagneand absinthe mixed to form a sort of cloud.Like when I walked the Rue Delambre, at night,blossoming inward like a chrysanthemumfor a small view of the Seine, and thoughtfor once, surely now is enough. To arrivethis late and still be the first. Like the bodysaying, again for the first time. Whatis everywhere offers itself, again, itself.
Copyright © 2018 by Brian Sneeden
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Brian Sneeden is the author of the poetry collection, Last City (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2018). His poetry and translations have been awarded the Iowa Review Award in Poetry, the World Literature Today Translation Award for Poetry, the Indiana Review 1/2K Prize, a PEN/Heim Translation Grant, and the Constantinides Memorial Translation Prize. His translation of Phoebe Giannisi’s poetry collection, Homerica (2017) was selected by Anne Carson as a favorite book of 2017 in The Paris Review. His work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Harvard Review, TriQuarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other publications. Brian received his MFA from the University of Virginia, where he held a Poe/Faulkner Fellowship in creative writing and served as poetry editor for Meridian. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of Translation Studies at the University of Connecticut, where he serves as Managing and Senior Editor of World Poetry Books.
"The poems in Last City by Brian Sneeden accomplish that rarest — and most vital — feat in poetry: they are spells, conjurings, wards. The earth and the stars, the past and the present, life and death — they are all made new, or strange, or singing, here. I cannot imagine a better, richer debut than this."
—Paul Guest, author of Notes for My Body Double
"The poems in Brian Sneeden’s Last City speak with an oracular tenderness that only partly disguises their chthonic wisdom. Sneeden guides us through rooms haunted by a 'good-bye harvest/ of twice-broken things,' or through the city of Alexandria as seen by its Roman victim Mark Antony: 'to him the city casts human shadows,/ the walls a mosaic of arms and legs….' These marvelous poems present a whimsical, surreal view of the world that works its quiet and sly way into deep mysteries. Give yourself over to them, go with them—and where you arrive will delight and surprise you."
—Gregory Orr, author of River Inside the River
"A brilliant and original voice. Sneeden’s poetry reaches back through the Greek masters of the last century to their Classical predecessors, and in this journey finds a voice that is agile and entirely spontaneous. He speaks to the twenty-first century loneliness that comes from being connected to everyone and everything past and present, and to our fantasies of a future that will deliver us from this loneliness and perhaps from ourselves too."
—Peter Constantine, translator of The Undiscovered Chekhov