Under the White Lies

one pigskin glove of the pair that signified
a step toward unmittened manhood
lost somewhere in the snow,
some erased spot, threateningly sacred now,
dedicated to the discovery of dismay—

our relationship with the elements
of the quantum universe is the adult view
of our relationship with the gods we carve,
but still ephemeral almost to the fine point
of the paradox of empty space
from atom to axiom and back
to a graphite smear on the retina.


In our institutional crusade for exactitude,
for the purity of the Absolute,
the liege of Corporate Capital Law,
we have long stopped extolling beauty, failing
even to reckon with the callous and tawdry.

Still, some struggle for beauty, or
shadow of beauty, echo of beauty,
cobbled rubrics that conjure and curate the beauteous
only according to patent law and copyright.


What a wonder of imagination!
that having discovered that we can’t control what is—
the tides, the weather,
the migration of wildebeest,

the behavior of our children or the clan in the next forest,
the vatic fecklessness of poets—
we turn to a faith in our power to control
what we know to be ephemeral,

a hopeward confessio fidei,
or a dire cauldron of narcotic lies—
canticles from the Gospel of Goebbels
or the Tweet of Trump, Putinspit—

The hateward liturgy of penance enforced.
The deathward legacy of bondage.


I think of the glove
and still regret that, even with a new pair,
my mind was fixed, still mittened for a time,
as it is just now, for a time.

The spot in the snow, grown over and over,
the place I never did find,
is still sacred though, to my discovery
of the axial virtue of dismay.

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Sederstrom is the author of eight books of poetry, his latest book, The Dun Book, published by Jackpine Writers' Bloc, was released last fall. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.