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After the Others: Poems

After the Others: Poems

by Bruce Weigl

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Winner of the 2006 Lannan Foundation Award for Poetry

In his twelfth volume of poetry, Bruce Weigl continues his quest for emotional and spiritual enlightenment. Quiet and moving, these poems combine an intimate voice with a searingly direct look at suffering and senseless violence, at human desire and love, and at man's relationship with nature.


Winner of the 2006 Lannan Foundation Award for Poetry

In his twelfth volume of poetry, Bruce Weigl continues his quest for emotional and spiritual enlightenment. Quiet and moving, these poems combine an intimate voice with a searingly direct look at suffering and senseless violence, at human desire and love, and at man's relationship with nature.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"These are hard-edged, partisan works imbued with the spirits of Philip Levine and James Dickey." --Washington Post Book World

"This is the powerful, seldom easy work of a very distinctive poet." --Booklist

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The first five volumes covered in Weigels Archeology (1976s Executioner to 1988s Song of Napalm) dwell on Weigls firsthand experiences of Americas southeast Asian war, returning obsessively to combat terror, witnessed atrocities and cravings for underaged prostitutes. However laudable his brutal honesty, lines like I was barely in country soon become tiresome. Weigls best poems come from his three 1990s volumes (particularly from After the Others, represented in Archeology with selections marked as New Poems) where he begins to distill his themes of disgust and horror within non-Vietnam contexts. Weigls most grimly powerful poems, all found in Archeology, are The Impossible, an account of being forced, as a seven-year-old boy, to perform oral sex on a strange man, and The Nothing Redemption, a disgusting vision of a young man whose hole/ was plastered closed with his own excrement in an attempt to disqualify himself from military service. Snowy Egret (from 1985) and Carp (a more pressurized rhyme sonnet from 1996s Sweet Lorain) are convincing documents of regret for mindless boyhood destruction of animal life. The complex and unsettling Pineapple (appearing in both volumes) is a recollection of a womans seductive behavior in a supermarket fruit aisle; tinged with lust and violence, it somehow reaches its dark climax in the narrators refusal to respond to the womans advances. That poem and other notables in After the Others (such as the squalid The Singing and the Dancing and the desperate Anniversary of Myself) make that book the most consistently rewarding effort from this still evolving poet. (May)

Product Details

Northwestern University Press
Publication date:
After the Others Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt


    After the others

everything changed.
They took the mountains
then crossed the river
swiftly in their long boats.
Always they have come.
They took the trees.
They took the brown earth

and the small houses.
They silenced the voices
and took the words
so no one could tell the story
of the time before
because they have always come,
because there is no time before.

Under a single blue cloud
a man and a woman touched each other.
An unfaithful gratuity of dogs appeared.
The old people stopped speaking.
They would not bear witness
to the visitations
or to the jangled, rising noise of gabble

conjured in place of a history. God
was invented
so they could bear their suffering.
In the end
they had only each other
and wandering, alone,
that was not enough.


I saw the proverbial ant,
load of dead moth flesh
across its back, stumbling,
but purposeful to the exquisite,
headed home
along its trail of sweat and tears.

I was not looking for meaning.
I wanted only to ease myself
away from our earth
into nothing
and I saw my own stunned white body
slung across the ant's back
as it trudged towards the dark inside
and the hum of our good news.

    The Happy Land

I dread those lacedoilies
lonely women stitch
for the ill,

and the surplice of the unchaste
boy who serves the morning mass,
though always

I have believed and practiced prayer,
even when I stalked those alleys
to murder in mindless boyhood boredom

so many righteous songbirds
that I will never know their forgiveness
which I had imagined

would feel like their tiny hearts felt
sputtering out in my hand because
I had launched those jagged stones so precisely.

    Praise Wound Dirt Skin Sky

Praise wound.
Praise dirt in the wound
that made the metal
fester in the skin.
Praise wound
that closed over
like night sky.
Praise the sharp
cutting metal
exploded into splinters,
physics of shrapnel,
my science.
Praise skin,
how it pushed
the splinters out
against all odds
through the scar
to the cot
in the city
where I waited
where I walked
in the place of emperors.

    In the Realm of Cricket

Because he is the last cricket alive
in the glass world my son built for his lizards,
this one begins to sing
with his luminous saw-blade legs.

On the forked branch we cut from a spruce,
the lizards sleep on top of each other
and blink as though they each
had discovered a star to cling to.

Their bellies full,
they do not hear or care
for the cricket's song
that seems a clear announcement against time.

From under the only rock,
the last cricket tells its story.
How all the others,
whose names we may not say because they're lost,

have gone before.
How they left neither in anger, nor with regret.
How the world is no less without them,
which is why he must sing.

The Inexplicable Abandonment of
Habit in Eclipse

My father and his father
punched the card in and out every day
and did not love their lives.
They worked too hard for nothing wages,

then bitched to their wives in restless beds
and grew around themselves
a coat of sullenness.
I was not conscience-calmed then.

Almost always I played a silent war game to myself,
and a memory of my father
leaning in the doorway
watching night birds

sweep and then
pass upwards
into a suddenly dark afternoon sky
gives me no peace.

    Prologue in Minor Key, for the Ancestors

They thought the sun was a wheel,
and in their great horror
they imagined that it would stop.

Now blood runs in our rivers,
while we loved
and we loveless ones
linger in the gauzy field of time

that we invented,
that we believe
does not circle the sun
or make the sun circle itself.

We live inside of a history
that no longer remembers us,
that began when the sky was torn through
with someone's red

fingers at the heights of their sacred places
that rose from the river valley
where our people cut out living hearts
to feed to the sun, to keep it moving.

What He Said When They Made Him
Tell Them Everything

Bad coke blues. The way some people
feel the music more.

The way the music
comes inside and takes their bodies

(I have seen this happen),
and takes their arms and legs and hips. The hips

are especially taken.
She came from the other life

to show me her face
and to open herself

so I could taste the world
blessed once more

and once more damned.
And how I squatted that way in Cholon

the hour before light
so the cruising MP's

would think I was not who I was,
and I would lift us all

to be among the lilies
piled high as men if I could.

Her face so close to mine, so soon and public
made me shiver

in the memory of her
by the river of the green place

where we had been torn apart.
I felt her hard bite on my arm

that could have been harder,
angel's blood in my mouth

in the inn by the circle of afternoon
boys where she lay into my curled shape. I

wanted to note the passage of loss through our bodies:
the azaleas that would blossom into nothing,

that would not forgive the winter its indiscretions;
the red bud mouths that would not open in time.

Meet the Author

Bruce Weigl (born January 27, 1949, Lorain, Ohio) is an American contemporary poet who teaches at Lorain County Community College. Weigl enlisted in the United States Army shortly after his 18th birthday and spent three years in the service. He served in the Vietnam War from December 1967 to December 1968 and received the Bronze Star . When he returned to the United States, Weigl obtained a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College, and a Master of Arts Degree in Writing/American and British Literature from the University of New Hampshire. From 1975-76, Weigl was an instructor at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio

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