08-28-09

Mark Sullivan

Snail

There's a luminous space

in the world, a threshold

where light from the next room

There's a luminous space 

falls into this dark one,

and we feel it when the mind

settles on anything

There's a luminous space 

for any length: the bare

trees gusting with ghost leaves

in this violent wind,

There's a luminous space 

the staircases zigzagging

up building faces

like afterthoughts

There's a luminous space 

of a careless architect.

Now consider this snail

you found escaping from

There's a luminous space 

its uprooted universe

when you rinsed the spinach

from the organic store:

There's a luminous space 

doesn't it seem to be

a literal emblem

of concentration, deep

There's a luminous space 

tarnish of its shell

spiraling into some

wordless realm?

There's a luminous space 

Amazing how it stays

in the exact same spot

for days, an inhuman

There's a luminous space 

patience, glued to the underside

of a leaf in its

containerized California

There's a luminous space 

you've improvised on the shelf.

We debate about this:

laziness, inertia,

There's a luminous space 

jet lag from its journey?

What could be its thoughts

or its dreams of a world

There's a luminous space 

gathered in inches

through its bleary antennae,

its body of petroleum gel?

There's a luminous space 

I tend to think it's all

a matter of survival--

why move, after all, when

There's a luminous space 

the safest route is stillness,

to become the leaf's whorled

shadow, hard camouflage

There's a luminous space 

swallowing the soft core?

But you're not sure.

You keep wondering about

There's a luminous space 

the life inside that spiral,

that point-- by definition without

dimension, so doesn't that mean

There's a luminous space 

it is spirit?-- from which

the volume descends.

In the book you're reading

There's a luminous space 

on Jewish mysticism,

God is said to have become

nothing in order to create

There's a luminous space 

everything.  Which is all

beyond us, in our all-too-human

apprehensions.  Still, you

There's a luminous space 

stare, drawn continually

into this tiny vortex,

matching its patience with

There's a luminous space 

your own-- that quality

whose root and sound are so close

to passion, and which Balzac

There's a luminous space 

said, beautifully,

comes closest in us

to the process that makes the world.

There's a luminous space 

-from Slag

BIO: Mark Sullivan's first collection of poetry, Slag, was published in 2005, the winner of the Walt MacDonald First Book Series competition. He is also the recipient of a "Discovery"/The Nation Prize. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in Mid-American Review, New England Review, Orion, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Southwest Review, and other journals. He was born in Willmar, Minnesota, raised in eastern Massachusetts, and educated at Middlebury College, Oxford University, and Columbia University. He lives with his wife in New York City.