John Wood received the 2009 Gold Deutscher Fotobuchpreis for Endurance and Suffering: Narratives of Disease in the 19th Century. He is the only poet to win the Iowa Poetry Prize twice, first for In Primary Light (1993) and second for The Gates of the Elect Kingdom (1996). His Selected Poems 1968 – 1998 was published by University of Arkansas Press in 1999, and his new collection of poems, The Fictions of History, is available from 21st Editions. Wood is also a leading art and photography critic whose books have won many awards. He co-curated the 1995 Smithsonian Institution/American Art Museum exhibition Secrets of the Dark Chamber. He is Professor Emeritus of English literature and photographic history at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where he directed the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing for over twenty-five years. He and his wife Carol now live in Saxtons River, Vermont.
In the Face of the Electron
In the unstopping spin and swirl
of matter’s uncertainty, it can
sometimes be caught unaware
and resting for a short fraction
just as the more common birds
are often caught, and so
the Nature artist must be quick
and snap it before it flies off
as the fastest light excels,
to snap it before the electron’s
huge and fluffy wings again
begin to beat, driving matter
mad in its motions, and before
its beak begins again to peck
at the atomic shell, and before
its maddening dance must begin
again to hold everything together,
secured in the electron’s hold,
its wide-wings’ generous, spinning embrace,
succoring with no knowledge of its doing so
the imponderable heart of meaning.
The Witches of Rot
To the Memory of Jakob Albahari, murdered by anti-Semites
In the hidden wood the daggers grow.
Nearby a witch’s arm and rotting hand
rises from the mud. And soon we’ll know
her full deformity, the barren land
of her body and what she despises.
This is the blasted world they love, ink black,
hair-snatching, a pond for the drowning cries
of children who have wandered off from luck,
deceived by daisies where they’d never grow.
Witch-ground, witch-ground. Here is evil’s home.
And as she rises from her muck, we know
that nihilistic stare, that curdled groan
of unending hunger, as old as Cain.
There’s witch ground, witch ground always close around.
It’s blood-ground, blood-ground soaked in pain
with no end to what they can hate and hound.