Barry Silesky

The Idea

Where have you gone now? Or is it me hidden in the bright day everyone lives, furniture scattered in shadow? I’ve got the story wrong I know, but I’ll keep looking for the broom to clear the floor; words to explain how to reach the one idea I’m always trying to find. Maybe it’s the woman I wanted to want me, her presence filling more than I can imagine; or the movie we saw last week, whose story I didn’t understand, these words the only thing left. So the prayer continues, the ancient idea it came from leaking into all the space. It’s time to describe its breadth, the way it absorbs the rooms, the summer baking street and lawn, the tomatoes you planted ripening where I can’t see. Hence the secret waiting to be revealed. I know this isn’t it, and nothing I wanted. But look at those white flowers. So I’ve done it again. All I need is a name.


The answer I want blows amid scraps drifting like an idea that keeps returning or a prayer for another beginning, lost in the debris. I want the universe of that language to continue through icy air, the blizzard the news predicts that brings back the chainsaw, burning oak, the woman who loved me, snow white and white and blowing. The picture doesn’t explain the music; notes flashing across neurons I can’t see. But the thing I never realized must be waiting. Mail fills the box, and I want to believe I’ve found the end, but the story is barely started. The war goes on, explosions I don‘t hear kill more, and I can only wait. Often It took several boats to get a whale, they say, of the men gathered on the sea. Call it divine, I’m supposed to believe.

The One I Love

“He’s a cold wind” the book says. And He’s supposed to be a friend, but that depends on the angle. From here it’s a blank idea with no temperature. Yes, I know that’s wrong; just, the temperature isn’t measured. It’s like the child in the coloring book— white and expressionless, but ready to smile if I can find the right colors and words to explain. Something about the blue sky and the one I love makes this the center everyone wants to find. I know He’s more reliable than I am, and you always liked his looks, whatever they are. Not that his demeanor is a factor; but maybe it is. Another thing I’ve never understood. Last week was hot and sweaty before the front blew in to clarify the surroundings and make another life, and no one’s recognizable anymore. Even now the time we’ve hoped for is coming. I say I’m ready, but the moment won’t last. Nothing does, and this time when the phone rings I’m going to answer.


Barry Silesky’s poetry collections include This Disease (Tampa University Press 2010), One Thing That Can Save Us (Coffee House Press 1991), The New Tenants (Eye of the Comet Press 1990). He also has poems in more than 80 magazines and anthologies, (Poetry, Notre Dame Review, Chelsea, Crab Orchard Review, et al.) and has written biographies of Ferlinghetti (Warner Books) and John Gardner (Algonquin Books). All of it’s been in the shadows of Wrigley Field, where he’s lived for 30 years now with his wife, fiction writer Sharon Solwitz.