Scott Cairns

September 6, 2013 Scott Cairns



The spirit’s simulacra have obtained

a spinning countenance both manifold

and manifest.  And, lo, the spirit bides


within its every avatar unchanged,

and, lo, the simulacra swerve beyond

appearances alone, but keep their deep


entirety composed in every face.

You’re dizzy?  Just as well.  Your dizziness

proves seemly here, up close, and cultivates


at last a sweet, uncommon modesty.

How long has glib presumption kept us both

unschooled and pleased with our elaborate


unschooling?  No?  How might you now suspect

the spirit’s effervescent quickening?

And I?  I couldn’t easily say, but might suppose


this sudden bubbling near the heart is meet

and right, and promises one day to rise

to serve an altogether animate occasion.

Scott Cairns’ poems have appeared in PoetryThe Atlantic Monthly, The Paris ReviewThe New RepublicImageSpiritusTiferet, etc., and have been anthologized in Upholding Mystery (Oxford UP ’96), Best Spiritual Writing (Harper Collins ’98 and ’00), and Best American Spiritual Writing (Houghton Mifflin, ‘04, ’05, and ’06). His poetry collections include Idiot Psalms (Paraclete Press, 2014), Compass of Affection: Poems New and Selected (Paraclete Press, ‘06), Philokalia (Zoo Press ’02), Recovered Body (Braziller ’98), Figures for the Ghost (U Georgia P ’94), The Translation of Babel (U of Georgia P ’90), and The Theology of Doubt (Cleveland State UP ’85). With W. Scott Olsen, he co-edited The Sacred Place (U of Utah P ’96), an anthology of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. His spiritual memoir, Short Trip to the Edge, (HarperSanFrancisco) and a collection of adaptations and translations, Love’s Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life (Paraclete Press) both appeared in 2007. The translations appeared in paper as Endless Life: Poems of the Mystics (Paraclete Press, 2014), and the memoir will be released in paper by Paraclete Press in 2016, following Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems, which will appear July, 2015.