Friday, October 24, 2014

Poem of the Week: Sam Taylor

Past Tense

In the Great Depression of 2047,
a time of sorrow rivaled only
by the Global Unification Wars
of Spring 2029 to 2033,
in the Merlona Plague of 2104,
in the year of the forest die-off,
after the atmospheric hue reduction,
in the year of the last rebellion,
after the rise of the freeze gun,
after the Earth Liberation Army
went into hiding, after sorrow
was renamed, after the Ethiopians
became immune to cancer-
someone was born, and someone loved
in their names like grass
where the river sleeps
and the sky's tears were
a private thing
touched only in solitude.

And four out of five full bellies believed. 
And nine out of ten hungry mouths agreed.
And the ancient books that had never made sense
made no sense again and at last
ceased to be printed.  And all the words
fell out of the bibles in the night.
The pages were filled with a rain of leaves.
And the words that were left could not be read,
and so they acquired an air of sanctity
which they had never, in truth, possessed
in the daylight in the presence of men.

And someone in a field found an old car
from the year black with beetles, eaten like lace,
and the sky fell into it, a private thing.
And everyone had a kitchen or a fold-out bed
and a chair beside an open window,
and no one knew the hour, and no one knew the day,
but behind locked doors and curtains, they danced
to the music pumped through the walls
that no one could escape, and to that other music
that rose off the blood, that could not be silenced-
and so on and so forth-
and the seed of hope still had not vanished
from the face of the childless earth.

Used with permission.
From Nude Descending an Empire (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). 

Sam Taylor is the author of two books of poems, Body of the World (Ausable/Copper Canyon Press) and Nude Descending an Empire (Pitt Poetry Series), and the recipient of the 2014-2015 Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, as well as other honors.  His work most frequently explores themes of mysticism, sexuality, ecology, politics, suffering, and the mystery of the world.  His recently released Nude Descending an Empire develops the lyrical voice of a citizen-poet engaged with politics, history, and the urgency of our contemporary moment.  Taylor is currently an Assistant Professor in the MFA program at Wichita State University.  See more at


The Poetry Contest Deadline Fast Approaches

Contest judge this year is the inimitable Natalie Diaz, author of When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). Diaz has been honored with the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, the Narrative Poetry Prize, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. She was a featured poet at the 2014 Split This Rock Poetry Festival.

First prize $500, second and third prizes $250 each.

Sam Taylor is very kindly offering a copy of Nude Descending an Empire for up to three poets selected for honorable mentions in this, the 8th annual Split This Rock Poetry Contest.

For contest details and to submit your poems of provocation and witness, visit our website here

Contest Deadline: November 1st, 2014.


Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks! If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.  

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