Weekly Poem: ‘Reasons to Consider Setting Ourselves on Fire’

BY Arts Desk  May 11, 2009 at 10:32 AM EDT

By Jynne Dilling Martin

Maybe, pilgrim, if I permit you to sleep on my floor tonight, tomorrow
every house on this block will burn to the ground except mine.

Never mind that we’ve rocketed beyond the age of miracles, that
snorting herds of swine no longer drown themselves en masse

in Middle Eastern seas, that gone are men in woolen robes riding
immortal white camels, gone too those who knelt before them in dirt.

Gone is the dirt, so holiness must be sought in other fertile crescents.
Tricky, isn’t it, when we don’t even know what a hairshirt looks like?

Any given window could be a one-way mirror behind which God
sits watching. Any given person cuts a path to a more perfect place.

Undoubtedly the polar bears at the zoo both dream that all other
animals will discover, upon waking, their bodies buried in snow.

Jynne Dilling Martin; photo by Toby GardnerJynne Dilling Martin’s poetry has appeared in Kenyon Review, New England Review, TriQuarterly, Indiana Review, New Orleans Review, Southern Review and elsewhere. In March, she was one of four winners of the 92nd Street Y “Discovery” Poetry Contest, which since 1951 has recognized the achievements of poets who have not yet published a first book. This year’s winners were chosen from among 900 poets. More information can be found at the 92nd Street Y. Next week, we will have a poem by another “Discovery” winner, Jeffrey Schultz.