David Wojahn

Threnody and Sylvia Plath
February 25, 2022 Wojahn David

Threnody: December 2020



The train coach, Jean—empty except for you,
the lighting dim,
& as I wobble


the jittery aisle toward your seat
you look up from
the notebook you’ve been writing in


& say my name & I say yours.
This is the special
privilege of dream,


that we still may talk, that your eyes
still gleam
impishly behind your glasses


& we enter that instant, transient
& liminal,
where both of us still live.


This is a good pencil, you say.
Will you keep it for me?


I liked what you said about the cave paintings.
Are you still a drinker? When we get


to the station, help me stand & take my arm.
But then I am alone.
A ghost mall, maybe


& behind the gate of the closed-down
a window display,


a cairn of heavy orthopedic shoes,
all for the right foot,
none for the left.


I stand bereft. & who now will divine
& change the dream?
Only you, I think.


You bettered this world
by having dwelt with us.
That much


I know. The shoes
are backlit.
They keep their own counsel.


Let me not waken yet. Let me not.
Let me walk these hallways,
corridors & wings


that I may find you. This is
a good pencil.
                  Will you keep it for me?


                                                              –Jean Valentine, in Memory



Sylvia Plath’s Tarot Deck Sold at Auction to Anonymous Bidder for 200K


You fondle it in your manicured, multi-ringed fingers.
You shuffle it, poolside perhaps, as the haze of the wildfires
blisters & occludes the Malibu breakers.
Fear death by water. Fear it, furthermore, by fire.
Your trophy, a little treat for yourself: your trophies abound.
& how tattered this one is: here The Fool, here The Juggler,
& here the storied Hanging Man who is the future,
Death or Rebirth, depending. This path the trust fund,
that path the muse-afflicted corpus,-
posthumous & fetal on a kitchen floor. The last
thing she glimpsed is linoleum, a bottle of milk
half-drunk beside a wedge of cheddar. & now she is the past
& the past is yours. You set the cards down & sip
your viognier. Any moment now, the haze will lift.

David Wojahn‘s ninth collection of poetry, For the Scribe, was issued in 2017 from the University of Pittsburgh Press. His previous collection, World Tree, was published by Pitt in 2011, and was the winner of the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize, as well as the Poets’ Prize. The University of Michigan Press released a new collection of his essays on poetry, From the Valley of Making, in 2015. He teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University, and in the low residency MFA in Writing Program of Vermont College of Fine Arts.