Daniel Tobin

November 24, 2018 Tobin Daniel


(Simone Weil, 1943-1909)

Arjuna, among all things I am the seed. There is no creature, living or un-living,
that would be without me.

Bhagavad Gita, “Eleventh Discourse”


Yes, Ravidat, to follow the rabbit down its winding hole
Below the limestone cliffs near Montingnac—Perigord Noir
With its oak forests where the river flows breakneck ahead

From ancient cluzeaux and lookout huts clotted for refuge
Against Rome, this parcel scorched for Aquitaine, its singers
Accorded to war, that exceeding music, to descend again

Into the whisper chamber, stone veil, womb of the species
And this time bring her with you, this scion, our secular saint,
While above the latest conqueror clamors with its cavalcade.

In this commodious cave, in the hall of bulls, aurochs rear
Parietal among dun horses, a great-horned stag, its antlers
Flaring like ganglia along the swelled boss—axial, synaptic—

Pigments blotted, swabbed, tube-sprayed in the tallow light.
So the galleries unfold, brede-like, in their earthen basilica,
Shaft, passageway, apse and nave: rhino, bison, feline, bear…

There, among the graven lattices and symbols, a thousand
Thousand overlapping and entangled, there in the darkness
Where the first imaginers lifted their long-flown scaffolds,

A bird-headed man floats, stick figure, as though he’d risen,
One beside one of his woolly extinctions—the vision, first
Inkling glimmer— a primal sprout out of the monkey mind.

Above, new gods engrave their crooked crosses, yellow stars.
Let her sit awhile underground, alone, in silence with silence.
Let her lift her hand, once, to feel the Root-less at the root.

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.