kim addonizio

A poem by Kim Addonizio.

Suppose we could see evil with such clarity we wouldn’t hesitate
to stamp it out like stray sparks from a fire. Look at those boys
shooting baskets in the park, jostling each other to hook the ball
through the iron circle at the end of the asphalt—what if you knew

a secret about one of them? Shirtless, he stands vibrating
at the edge of an imaginary line, the orange globe trembling
at the tips of his fingers, sweat drawing the light into his skin—
what if he’d done something unspeakable, something I can’t

talk about but know you can imagine, to the one
you love most in this world? Your child, maybe,
or the person whose body you know so well you can see it
simply by closing your eyes—What if he’d broken that body;

do you think if I handed you a gun you would walk up
to that shining boy and use it? You might think first
that maybe he couldn’t help himself, maybe he was trying
as he stood there concentrating on his shot to stop the noise

of some relentless machine grinding away in his brain,
the same one you hear in yours sometimes, bearing down until
you can’t tell what’s true anymore, or good. Suppose God
began to have that trouble. Suppose the first man

turned out cruel and stupid, a cartoon creature
that farted and giggled continuously; suppose the woman ripped
saplings from the earth all day and refused to speak
or be grateful for anything. What if they decided to torment

the smaller, weaker beasts, and just as God was about
to strike them dead and start over they turned towards each other
and discovered fucking, and the serpent whispered Look at them
and God’s head filled with music while the wild sparks leaped

from their bodies, bright as the new stars in the heavens.


Kim Addonizio

From: Tell me (2000), republished in Wild nights (Bloodaxe Books, 2015)