Scott Cairns: Coming Forth

Coming Forth

I’m sorry. I’ve had a hard time not laughing
even now. This ridiculous grin

won’t get off my face. Dying did it,
though I don’t remember much about

being dead. Sometimes, horrible things happen:
children die, famine sets in, whole towns

are slapped down and turned to dust by earthquake.
I can’t help it, but these things start me

laughing so I can’t stop. My friends all hate me.
The morning my sister cracked her hip,

I was worthless; I had to run clear out
to the clay field to keep anyone from seeing

how it broke me up. I know. You think
I’m trash, worse than a murderer

or a petty god. I suppose I am.
I just get this quiver started

in me every time someone I know dies and stays dead.
I tremble all over and have to hold

myself, as if some crazy thing in me
were anxious to get out. I told you

I can’t remember being dead. I can’t.
But this weakness in my knees, or in my throat

keeps me thinking—whatever comes next
should be a thousand worlds better than this.

—Scott Cairns, The Translation of Babel (University of Georgia Press, 1990)

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