Tom Sleigh

October 13, 2013 Sleigh Tom



In those days, so many stairways were said to lead to happiness, mainly of a sexual kind—and as I climbed those stairs, I could hear my name being called from the top, as I so often did back then—and the sight of me bolting up the stairs with my eager, cartoon tongue hanging out wasn’t as sad or silly as it might seem. Naturally, there were the avatars of sex, the ones who claimed to hate it, the others who thought it led to universal harmony—they were out in front of the rest of us, and they believed it, and so did I: but as a friend recently said to me, Always having to lead the way, be in front of the troops, all those speeches and sermons and truths you’d have to tell: such a burden. It went on like this, stairway branching into stairway, endless others going up or down to meetings just as I was. And after many years, there we were: to find you, to hold you, led like steps up and down…the sadness and silliness, though just as sad and silly, was somehow more in earnest. Even my doggy dog instincts, strong as always, understood some reckoning was at hand. The two of us had decided, mutually and irrevocably, to start climbing a stair that we knew was partly ruined, unlit except by the capriciousness of moonlight. But we had a method—and until the day when one or both of us stumbled off into the nothingness below, we committed ourselves to it—when one said, Left, we turned left. Which meant, because I have a terrible sense of direction, that I went whichever way you went.

Tom Sleigh is the author of eleven books of poetry including winner of the 2023 Paterson Poetry Prize The King’s Touch (Graywolf Press, 2022), House of Fact, House of Ruin (Graywolf Press, 2018), Station Zed (Graywolf Press, 2015), and Army Cats (Graywolf Press, 2011). His most recent book of essays, The Land Between Two Rivers: Writing In an Age of Refugees (Graywolf Press, 2018) recounts his time as a journalist in the Middle East and Africa. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, NEA grant recipient, and winner of numerous awards including the Kingsley Tufts Award, Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, John Updike Award and Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His poems appear in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Threepenny Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Raritan, The Common, Five Points and many other magazines. He is a Distinguished Professor in the MFA Program at Hunter College and lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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