Between the Stars
For a long time, we went on living.
We were casual about it—not wanting
to draw attention to our good fortune.
We asked so little of the universe—
only that it leave us alone, that it
pass us over this year and then the next.
After a while, we seemed invincible.
When our bodies began to betray us,
we were as surprised as they were, looking
into mirrors at faces we didn’t
recognize. Now the distance between the stars
mattered to us, and now it didn’t. Time,
as always, was the villain, with his scythe
and crooked knife. Oh, how we hated him!
In Iowa City, One Night
I swear there is only one cicada
in Minnesota—no choruses in the trees
as there were in Iowa City
the night we drove in from the East,
racing the golden light
down the interstate
to arrive at evening and walk the streets
near Prairie Lights Books.
It was a Sunday night,
and the lights in the store were all out,
but in the window display
we could see the names
of the latest and greatest poets
in America—their books
poised like beautiful
Afterwards, we found a place to eat
down and around the corner
from the Deadwood, where you used
to come looking for your son,
and I know you were afraid back then
and did the only thing you could
think of, because waiting
is not your style,
and you will always try to find
the lost ones, those who have missed
the last train home, those who
might be grateful for the ride
that comes along when all hope
is gone, for the shadow
coming out of the night
that turns out to be you.
Joyce Sutphen grew up on a farm in Stearns County, Minnesota. Her first collection of poems, Straight Out of View, won the Barnard New Women Poets Prize; Coming Back to the Body was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award, and Naming the Stars won a Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. She is one of the co-editors of To Sing Along the Way, an award winning anthology of Minnesota women poets. Her most recent collections, Modern Love & Other Myths (2015), is a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. She is the second Minnesota Poet Laureate, succeeding Robert Bly.