Two Poems

Stephanie Burt

(Epigrams, 59) 

What or who are you, whose nameplate reads Opportunity?
Leo the astronaut found you here, scored by sand,
red sand, and built a red-rock cairn to cover you.
            Grant him forgiveness, or spiritual immunity,
you who had finished your mission, and then some; pity
            him, if you can.
Soon he will have to leave you, and rise high over you,
            and wait for another year before he can stand.

(Epigrams, 45)

Warm ashes may flare up when stirred,
no matter how gently. Hermes, Dionysus and Pan—
god of ferment, god of wild woods, god of pretenders—
created me that way; maybe I ought to feel shame,
and yet, to tell the truth, I’d rather not skip it.

That said, I hope he won’t rush me.
                                    You might have heard.
That quiet one who shakes his head like a whippet
has only to touch me,
and I will fall apart like a stack of cinders.
An underground stream can topple a granite home.

Stephanie Burt is an English professor at Harvard, poetry co-editor of The Nation, and the author of several books of literary criticism and poetry.