Two of the fingers on his right hand
had been broken
so when he poured back into that hand it surprised
him—it hurt him at first.
And the whole body was too small. Imagine
The sky trying to fit into a tunnel carved into a hill.
He came into it two ways:
From the outside, as we step into a pair of pants.
And from the center—suddenly all at once.
Then he felt himself awake in the dark alone.
From The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe. Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
Born in Rochester, New York, Marie Howe attended Sacred Heart Convent School and the University of Windsor. She earned an MFA from Columbia University, where she studied with Stanley Kunitz, whom she calls “my true teacher.” Her first collection, The Good Thief (1988), was chosen for the National Poetry Series by Margaret Atwood, who praised Howe’s “poems of obsession that transcend their own dark roots.” Selecting the book for the Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the American Academy of Poets, Kunitz observed, “Her long, deep-breathing lines address the mysteries of flesh and spirit, in terms accessible only to a woman who is very much of our time and yet still in touch with the sacred.” In 1989, Howe’s brother died of an AIDS-related illness. Howe coedited (with Michael Klein) the essay anthology In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (1994). What the Living Do (1997), an elegy to her brother, was praised by Publishers Weekly as one of the five best poetry collections of the year. In The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2008), Howe distanced herself from the personal narrative and returned to, as she describes in an AGNI interview, her “obsess[ion] with the metaphysical, the spiritual dimensions of life as they present themselves in this world.” Howe’s new book, Magdalene (Norton 2017), imagines Mary Magdalene as a woman who embodies the spiritual and sensual, alive in a contemporary landscape, and can be ordered here. Howe has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia University, and NYU. She has received fellowships from the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Academy of American Poets, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She was the Poet Laureate of New York State from 2012 to 2014 and lives in New York City. Website: www.mariehowe.com. The Kingdom of Ordinary Time is available at here.