Daniel Tobin

March 23, 2020 Tobin Daniel


Ailwee Cave

You want to fathom me,
a frozen waterfall,
as you lean along the rail
and the slim line lulls
to that guide gargling on
about time scales bigger
than you can hardly reach
your outstretched arms around,
or your mind, that’s smaller
than my immensity.
Allow me, if you would,
to illuminate your lapse—
a nacreous leap in this
cave’s ablative light.
I am, in truth, a river,
the roving rock’s white verge
born of rain and earth-melt
from first beginnings.
These stalactites took
no time compared to me.
I patiently have poured
perpetually in night,
at once wick and candle
self-lit, self-sustained,
a shaman-wash of wall
long-hushed but listening.
I speak to you now as one
who has earned knowledge
of the constant miracle,
its calm, its winnowing.
Turn off your flimsy torch,
stand awake, attend
to all that runs under,
including your negation
curled there in the bear beds,
a blindness ready to wake
the way your wary eyes
would whiten if you stayed—
here, where I live forever
and will after you leave
for the slight life of your days,
your dream of sunlight.
I am the stone-stillness
borne by what runs beyond,
the swell, the swim, and trickle,
the tidal eternal,
the abyssal that abides
across, alone, to you—
this endless echo forming
from the fluent dark.

Daniel Tobin is the author of nine books of poems, including From Nothing, winner of the Julia Ward Howe Award,The Stone in the Air, his suite of versions from the German of Paul Celan, and most recently Blood Labors,named one of the Ten Best Books of 2018 by the New York Times. He is also the author of the critical studies Awake in AmericaPassage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, and On Serious Earth, forthcoming in 2019. Tobin has edited The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Light in Hand: Selected Early Poems of Lola RidgePoet’s Work, Poet’s Play: Essays on the Practice and the Art (with Pimone Triplettand To The Many: Collected Early Works of Lola Ridge, which received a Special Commendation from the Poetry Society. His poetry has won the “The Discovery/The Nation Award,” The Robert Penn Warren Award, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize, the Stephen J. Meringoff Award, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among other honors. He teaches at Emerson College in Boston.