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Anne Carson: a poem

Here Is My Propaganda One One One One Oneing On Your Forehead Like Droplets of Luminous Sin

Like many a wife I boosted the husband up to Godhood and held him there.

What is strength?

Opposition of friends or family merely toughens it.

I recall my mother's first encounter with him.


at a book I'd brought home from school with his name inscribed on the flyleaf

she said

I wouldn't trust anyone who calls himself X – and

something exposed itself in her voice,

a Babel

thrust between us at that instant which we would never

learn to construe –

taste of iron.

Prophetic. Her prophecies all came true although she didn't

mean them to.

Well it's his name I said and put the book away. That was the first night

(I was fifteen)

I raised my bedroom window creak by creak and went out to meet him

in the ravine, traipsing till dawn in the drenched things

and avowals

of the language that is "alone and first in mind". I stood stupid

before it,

watched its old golds and lieblicher blues abandon themselves

like peacocks stepping out of cages into an empty kitchen of God.


or some blessed royal personage. Napoleon. Hirohito. You know

how novelist Ōe

describes the day Hirohito went on air and spoke

as a mortal man. "The adults sat around the radio

and cried.

Children gathered in the dusty road and whispered bewilderment.


and disappointed that their emperor had spoken in a voice.

Looked at one another in silence. How to believe God had

become human

on a designated summer day?" Less than a year after our marriage

my husband

began to receive calls from [a woman] late at night.

If I answered [she]

hung up. My ears grew hoarse.

How are you.


Maybe. Eight. Can you.

The white oh yes.


What is so ecstatic unknowable cutthroat glad as the walls

of the flesh

of the voice of betrayal – yet all the while lapped in talk more dull

than the tick of a clock.

A puppy

learns to listen this way. Sting in the silver.

Ōe says

many children were told and some believed that when the war was over

the emperor would wipe away their tears

with his own hand.

This poem is from The Beauty of the Husband, published by Vintage Books Canada in 2002. Anne Carson is a Canadian poet, essayist, translator, classicist, and professor. With more than twenty books of writings and translations published to date, Carson was awarded Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships, has won the Lannan Literary Award, two Griffin Poetry Prizes, the T. S. Eliot Prize, the Princess of Asturias Award, the Governor General's Award for English-language poetry and the PEN/Nabokov Award. She was also appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2005 for her contribution to Canadian letters. Her latest book, The Trojan Women: a comic was published by Bloodaxe in 2021.

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