White Spirits

Greg Delanty Click to

gdelantyGreg Delanty’s latest book of poems is Book Seventeen from LSU Pres. Other recent books are Loosestrife (Fomite Press), The Word Exchange, Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation (WW Norton), and his Collected Poems 1986-2006 (Oxford Poets–Carcanet Press). He has received many awards, most recently a Guggenheim for poetry. He is Poet in Residence at Saint Michael’s College, Vermont.  “White Spirits” originally appeared in Shenandoah 46/2.

In the beginning, typography was denounced
as “The Black Art.” Though why or by whom
I can’t exactly say.
                                      Perhaps it had to do
with an invention’s magic air, or the fear
that the spread of the word would undo souls –
It probably simply came down to printers
being eternally bedaubed in black ink.

Lately I’ve been thinking more along the lines
of how certain composers set words out of
their own ink-black darkness –
                                              And no matter
how strong the white spirits, they’re unable
to wash the ink from their hands, stained
like a weeping woman’s mascara-smudged face,
or the finger-printed hands of a gangster.