Suzanne Wise was born in 1965 in Rutland, Vermont, and grew up in Killington, Vermont. She received her BA from Middlebury College in Vermont and her MFA from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Her poems have appeared in Boston Re v i e w, Denver Quarterly, Fe n c e , Tikkun, Volt, and elsewhere, and have been recognized with two fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Award, among other honors. Her first book is The Kingdom of the Subjunctive (Alice James, 2000). Wise has served as the literary events planner for Small Press Distribution in Berkeley and Poets House in New York City, and has taught creative writing at Middlebury College and in the Publication, Performance, and Media Program at Pratt Institute. She lives in Brooklyn.

by Suzanne Wise

It is time for you to stop trying to be so smart.
It is time to abandon those plans for aqueducts,
canals, sewers. It is time to burn your boats,
to jump into the next free dingy, to run
yourself aground on foreign land. It is time
to smash every inhibition on the shores of progress,
then loll in the rubble, flinging shards of ship
at gulls as you build empires in the sand
beneath a beach umbrella. Basically,
it is time to stop trying so hard.
Instead, lie back and listen to the waves
smashing shells to bits. Think of it
as a chorus goading you to greater heights
or as wild beasts begging to be caged.
Basically, it is time for you to be heard.
Remember to enunciate. Pay attention
to vowels, the way they seduce
regardless of the words they inhabit.
Recognize how the names of things
slide off their thingness like fried fish
from an oily plate. Smell the fishy fragrance,
injected into the steamy air by the mere
mention of dinner. Fondle your imaginary
skillet. How hard and dark and hot it is.
This is just the beginning of your power.
You will find new oceans, you will reside
in a do-or-die mode. This is not necessarily
a problem and thus the ironic, absurdist tone
you have become accustomed to
must also be abandoned. You must be
patient. You must quietly await
your one authentic voice. As Pound said,
quoting Beardsley: Beauty is slow.

For me, on the other hand, it is over,
politically, and as a human being.
I will never talk about myself again.
I will be taciturn, modest.
You will continue to look at me
from the outside and not know
what I have suffered. Still,
it may be difficult to forget
that I have been your leader.
It is this indebtedness
that will define you
as my greatest joy.

reprinted from Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century with permission from Sarabande Books.