Poetry Sunday: “Chiaroscuro,” by Chana Bloch



Before the light was divided from darkness,
what was it like, that chaos?
a brilliant shadow? an absence
lit from within?
This is not a question. I’m tired of living
in the land of answers.

At school I’d wave my flag of five fingers,
pleased to produce
just what the teacher ordered.
I needed to get it right.

I knew a man whose first love
was numbers, how sane they are.
Feelings! he blurted, startling himself and me.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have them.

My feelings know more than I do,
and what do they know?
He left me laughing and crying at the same time.

And what did he know without his feelings?
Four currencies, three fine wines,
two fountain pens, one blue, one black,
the capital of every poor country in the world.


First published in Spillway 17, Fall 2011, and then in Swimming in the Rain: New and Selected Poems, 1980-2015. Reprinted by permission of Autumn House Press.


chana-bloch_author-photo_12-1-16Chana Bloch is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Swimming in the Rain: New & Selected Poems, 1980-2015 (available at www.autumnhouse.org), which includes poems from four earlier collections, The Secrets of the Tribe, The Past Keeps Changing, Mrs. Dumpty, and Blood Honey. She is co-translator of the biblical Song of Songs, and of contemporary Israeli poetry, including The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai and his Open Closed Open and Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch. Bloch taught for many years at Mills College, where she directed the Creative Writing Program, and she was the first poetry editor of www.persimmontree.org. Among her awards are the Poetry Society of America’s Di Castagnola Award, the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, and the Meringoff Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared recently in the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, the 2015 Pushcart Prize Anthology, and Best American Poetry 2015. Her website is www.chanabloch.com. (Author Photo Credit: Benjamin Bloch)


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