Two Poems

Donna Masini

Woman on Cell Phone Dragging an Empty CartThrough Washington Square ParkIt’s called Sisyphus. No. Sisyphus. Yes. Apparentlysome Greek myth. This guy is punished for—punished—yes—for something, and has to roll a rock up a hill every dayand every day it rolls—a rock, yes—and every day it rolls back down.Something about the absurdity of life.Camus says—Camooo—says it’sabout the condition of man and thatit’s meaningless and we have to just keepdoing it and—the rock, yes, rolling the rock—and thatgives our life meaning. Yeah. Wellif that don’t drive you to God—A GateI have oared and grieved,grieved and oared,treading a religionof fear. A frayed nerve.A train wreck tied to the trainof an old idea.Now, Lord, reeling in violenttimes, I drag these tidalgriefs to this gate.I am tired. Deliverme, whatever you are.Help me, you who are nevernear, hold what I loveand grieve, reveal this greenevening, myself, rain,drone, evil, greed,as temporary. Grantedthen gone. Let me rail,revolt, edge out, gloveto the grate. I am donewaiting like some invalidbegging in the nave.Help me divinemyself, beside me no Virgilurging me to shift gear,change lane, sing my dirgefor the rent, torn world, and loveyour silence without veeringinto rage.

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Donna  Masini

Donna Masini is the author of two previous collections of poetry and a novel. She was awarded the Barnard Women Poets Prize, a Pushcart Prize, a fellowship with the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches at Hunter College and lives in New York City. (Author photo by Claire Holt)

In poems that are by turns intimate and wild, provocative and tender, Donna Masini explores personal loss, global violence, and the consolations of art. She brings her wit, grief, fury, and propulsive energy to bear on the preoccupations of our daily lives and our attempts to bargain with endings of every kind. Equal parts lament and praise, 4:30 Movie is fueled by despair and humor, governed by the ways in which movies enter our imaginations and frame our experiences. The movie theater becomes a presiding metaphor: part waiting room, part childhood, part underground depths where the self is a bit player, riding the subway with “its engine of extras.” Masini’s exquisite wordplay shows the mind wrestling ferociously to forestall grief, as if finding the right words might somehow allow us to extend our beautiful, foreshortened run.

“Truly inspired… 4:30 Movie is a stunning, playful, searing, healing collection that will enlarge the reader and revive something crucial in American poetry.”
—Tracy K. Smith, US poet laureate

“[These poems] are extraordinary—electric with anxiety, smart, witty, constantly turning on themselves…I love this book.”
—Marie Howe

4:30 Movie is a fiercely energetic collection, thematically and formally unified…The intensity of this book is something new, as the speaker confronts the terrifying and unstoppable progress of her sister’s illness, and watches her own grief, the gestures she makes to try to ward off fear and loss, and her own distractibility… Formally, Masini has reimagined the way her poems work, and the results are thrilling, and often startling.”
—Mark Doty

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