The Road

Elizabeth Spires

Better a monosyllabic life than a ragged

and muttered one; let its report be short and round like a rifle, so that it may hear its own echo in the surrounding silence.THOREAU

A life: pared to the bone.Think of a room with nochair, no bed. Like a monk,I sit on a black squarein a patch of light.In my mind, I sit there.Or, a life on the roadthat takes me here, there,the trees in fall so bare.And I with justthe rags on my back,a gnarled stick to lean on.Your life, held nextto mine, is rich and fat.You walk with a packand wear a big straw hatthat blocks the sun.You like things loud,loud songs, and beata drum as you walk.Hoooo there! you call,but I let you pass.The days and yearsmount up as I walk ontoward a word darkas night, black as pitch,still as a held breath.A place where a nightbird sings. It soundslike Keats so I stop.I build a fire,sleep like the dead,dream of a bright star,and wake at dawn,the sweet bird gone.Then rise, splash my facefrom the stream. Up the road,a few souls, gray as time,stand in a patch of shade,their arms held out.So it was for this! I think,This life, this road! This!and run as I have neverrun, back to the beginning,the very beginning.They are allwhere I left them.And there is so much to say.

Feature Date

Series

Selected By

Share This Poem

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Print This Poem

Share on print
Elizabeth  Spires

Elizabeth Spires is the author of six previous poetry collections, including Worldling and The Wave-Maker. A Memory of the Future has just been released by W. W. Norton (July 24, 2018). Her poetry has appeared in the Atlantic and The New Yorker, among others. A professor at Goucher College, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland. (Author photo by Celia Dovell Bell)

In A Memory of the Future, critically acclaimed poet Elizabeth Spires reflects on selfhood and the search for a core identity. Inspired by the tradition of poetic interest in Zen, Spires explores the noisy space of the mind, interrogating the necessary divide between the social persona that navigates the world and the artist’s secret self. With vivid, careful attention to the minute details of everyday moments, A Memory of the Future observes, questions, and meditates on the ordinary, attempting to make sense of the boundaries of existence.

“All the distinguishing characteristics we’ve come to associate with Elizabeth Spires’s poems—their shimmering clarity, verbal restraint, and self-interrogations—are enacted in this new work of meticulous surfaces and surprising depths… Spires’ consuming subject—the fluidity of time set against the immutable presence of death—is approached with Zen-sparked simplicity: ‘As one grows older, / there should be fewer / and fewer words to say.’ Yet those few words, as set down in A Memory of the Future, resonate with wisdom and insistent wonder.”
—Michael Waters

“With insatiable imagination, subtle music, stark candor, an ingenious sense of play, and an all-encompassing vision, Elizabeth Spires builds poem after poem revealing world within word within world. Her subject is nothing less than the feral innocence and courage of a ‘poised / and ready’ soul in search of meaning, open to ebullient joy and harrowing loss…Discovering grandeur in miniature, alighting on a mortal’s fleeting moment in a sublime landscape, Spires enlarges the possibilities of lyric.”
—Phillis Levin

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.