Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Unwritten Poem’ and other poems

By: Benjamin Thorne

Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Unwritten Poem

black ants scurry
ignoring my commands

a sinking island
of white space
in a white sea,
a melting iceberg
of thought

the poem is a pregnant pause
uncomfortably waiting
to give birth

paper blossoms with salt-
water flowers, each
drooping its head down—
my new calligraphy

wind blows rubber shavings
like leaves across a blank field

it is snowing
inside, a miracle
over my waste bin

ghosts of thought
float beneath
the paper’s surface
look closely and see
the impressions of their faces

there is a hole
in the pocket
of this paper
where I kept


so much depends

a red. . .something. . .
something. . .

I cannot write this poem
because I cannot hear it.
All the other ideas waiting
to be written, they scream
at me like abandoned children.

There are three of us here:
you, me, and the poem.
I have nothing to say.
The poem has nothing to say.
(It is a stilted conversation.)

A bus pulls out
from the station, choking
the air with black afterthoughts.
On it sits an old friend; his face
takes the shape of a poem.

The wise blackbirds refuse my roost.
They will line some other nest
with their feather-letters.

Winter Bride

The pale winter sun casts wan light
through a faded gray bridal veil,
bits of lace caught in its glow
as they wander down—what was that word
she first learned from Madame Demerie?
La neige—a white negligée
to cover demure ground.
So chill, the air that traces thoughts
with each soft breath; so bare the trees
standing nude for an audience nowhere.
Her ring’s cool touch conjures the ghost
of his absent frame, the flames of aching
anger—how it burns, that gelid ire
brought by lame misfortune,
the slip of innocent surprise
as her nightgown slid past thighs
atop their staircase, the slip
and skid of his excited feet
before the fall . . .

In this lean season no thing grows
except the long distance of time.

The Harpist

See how deftly she plucks the strings,
sinuous fingers bridging threads
together, building things from her mind
out into the world, so fragile a hand
could dispel it from air, yet so strong
silken chords ensnare the senseless.
Her art complete, she steps aside
patiently to await her cue:
then the fierce harpist strides
back to center stage
when she feels the frantic applause
from her captive audience.

Ode to a Mockingbird

Genius of tree branch and birdsong,
collecting audible baubles
for your repertoire: chitter and chirp,
warble and trill, so many sounds,
and still none know why you mock—
perhaps to woo she-mocks to swoon,
or warn enemies of false doom;
or maybe, little one, you are like me,
simply delighting in learning
new ways to say all that you are
and all that you mean, hoping
to be heard, even if unseen.


Benjamin Thorne is an Associate Professor of Modern European History at Wingate University. Possessed of a lifelong love for history and poetry, he is interested in exploring the synergy between the two. His poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from Topical PoetryThe New Verse NewsThe Savannah Literary Journal, and The Main Street Rag.

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