“Of Politics & Art” by Norman Dubie
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
Of Politics & Art
Here, on the farthest point of the peninsula The winter storm Off the Atlantic shook the schoolhouse. Mrs. Whitimore, dying Of tuberculosis, said it would be after dark Before the snowplow and bus would reach us. She read to us from Melville. How in an almost calamitous moment Of sea hunting Some men in an open boat suddenly found themselves At the still and protected center Of a great herd of whales Where all the females floated on their sides While their young nursed there. The cold frightened whalers Just stared into what they allowed Was the ecstatic lapidary pond of a nursing cow's One visible eyeball. And they were at peace with themselves. Today I listened to a woman say That Melville might Be taught in the next decade. Another woman asked, "And why not?" The first responded, "Because there are No women in his one novel." And Mrs. Whitimore was now reading from the Psalms. Coughing into her handkerchief. Snow above the windows. There was a blue light on her face, breasts, and arms. Sometimes a whole civilization can be dying Peacefully in one young woman, in a small heated room With thirty children Rapt, confident and listening to the pure God-rendering voice of a storm.
from The Mercy Seat: Collected & New Poems 1967-2001, 2001
Copper Canyon Press
Copyright 2001 by Norman Dubie.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press from The Mercy Seat: Collected & New Poems 1967-2001. Copyright 2001 by Norman Dubie. For further permissions information, contact The Permissions Company, P.O. Box 243, High Bridge, NJ 08829, phone 908-537-7559, fax 908-537-7669.
About the Poet
Norman Dubie (1945- ) was born in Barre, Vermont, the son of a radical minister and a nurse. Dubie is the author of more than 20 poetry collections, including The Quotations of Bone (Copper Canyon Press, 2015).
Learn more about Norman Dubie at The Poetry Foundation.