Spine To Spin, Spoke To Speak

Editor’s Note: To celebrate National Poetry Month, we are sampling some of the wonderful work published by small presses that focus on poetry. Each week throughout April, we’ll feature poems from a different press. This week, we offer selections from City Lights. Founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti not long after the famed San Francisco bookstore City Lights Books opened in 1953, City Lights Publishing has made a tradition of celebrating new and emerging voices — and has always maintained a special bond with readers of poetry (perhaps their most widely read volume is their Pocket Poets edition of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl), and cherished its roots among Beats and other champions of the counterculture.

We begin the week with Andrew Joron’s “Spine To Spin, Spoke To Speak,” from Trance Archive: New & Selected Poems, released this month from City Lights.

Next week, we’ll be presenting suites of poems from Graywolf Press.

Spine To Spin, Spoke To Speak

The pilot alone knows

That the plot is missing its


Why isn’t this “ominous science”

   itself afraid, a frayed


Pray, protagonist —

Prey to this series of staggered instants.

Here the optic

Paints its hole, its self-consuming moment.

It is speech, dispelled, that

   begs to begin to ache.

So that wind accelerates to wound, a dead sound

   enlivened by the visitation of owls.

As pallid as parallel, the cry

Of the negative is not the negative

   of the cry — an irreparable blessing —

A green world’s

   “sibilant shadows” where

The syllables of your name are growing younger.

As involuntary as involuted, “who”  

   returns its noun

   to each tender branch

That noon breaks into no one.

Point of view

Hovers, a circular cloud, over evacuated


That heard its herd bellow below

   the terraced cities, the milled millions

   as sold as unsouled, ghost-cargos.

A symptom of the Maddening —

Woman undressed of her flesh.

Man’s address

   to Thou, & the flag of Thou.

How the fallen state

Meets the starry horizon, veil

   against witness, hunger against void.

O, oldest

   outermost Other —

Ageing mask

Of the transparent Earth. Unspeculated


Streaked with mirror & stricken words.

You are neither the torn, nor the thorn.

You are the many-petalled

   melting point of repeating decimals. . .

Receiver, river

Has been burned into voice, a day-dark ribbon.

All signal is this


Andrew Joron, “Spine To Spin, Spoke To Speak” from Trance Archive: New & Selected Poems © 2010 by Andrew Joron. Reprinted with the permission of City Lights Books, San Francisco, California. www.citylights.com