The air is colder than the light in the airNo fog no smoke but the light hangs on the airLike fog like smoke I'm walking to the bakeryOn Amsterdam across from the cathedral A middle-aged man wearing a tweed cap andA limp blue Members Only jacket passes meAnd a black face mask with a white skullPrinted on it but death is a professor everywhere What have you learned he asksWhat do you knowI turn the corner and the sidewalk's full of stu-dents everybody's parents sent them hoping Back elsewhere the professor hangs his jacket on his chairSighs off his cap tightens his mask
Copyright © 2021 by Shane McCrae.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Shane McCrae’s most recent books are Sometimes I Never Suffered, a finalist for the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Rilke Prize, and The Gilded Auction Block, both published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He has received a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University.
Founded in 1892 by the teacher and critic William Peterfield Trent, the Sewanee Review is the longest-running literary quarterly in America. The SR has published many of the twentieth century’s great writers, including T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Wallace Stevens, Saul Bellow, Katherine Anne Porter, Marianne Moore, Seamus Heaney, Hannah Arendt, and Ezra Pound. The Review has a long tradition of cultivating emerging talent, from excerpts of Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor’s first novels to the early poetry of Robert Penn Warren, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and Christian Wiman. “Whatever the new literature turns out to be,” wrote editor Allen Tate in 1944, “ it will be the privilege of the Sewanee Review to print its share of it, to comment on it, and to try to understand it.” The mission remains unchanged.