Poetry Sunday: “Prophesy,” by Jill Bialosky


We knew how it worked.
Our precursors warned us.
It would happen when they were teenagers.
Still, we didn’t believe it. Not our boys.
The first time we thought
that they were under the influence
of a drug, or a conniving friend or girl.
They looked right through us, no longer
willing to abide. It was as if another being
had taken over, scorching even their hair
a deeper shade, stealing their voice.
When we went to kiss them
their cheeks turned to stone,
and when they looked at us
it was with disdain instead of adoration.
The kinder and more loving
we’d meant we’d have it worse.
It was as if they were suddenly warned
of a prophesy
that would bring tragedy and gloom
if they did not turn away; it was as if they’d been
deceived or deluded; it was as if they were
Oedipus discovering he’d married
his mother and took the pin from her
dress, yes her dress,
and stabbed himself in the eye.
We knew there was nothing we could do
but ride it out, that for some
it might take years of wandering and exile,
of restraint and turmoil
until they’d finally come back
as if to seek refuge
in a grove of gentle trees.



“Prophesy” from THE PLAYERS: POEMS by Jill Bialosky, compilation copyright © 2015 by Jill Bialosky. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. First published in The Harvard Review.

The Players is available here.

Listen to the author reading poems from The Players (“The Dugout,” “Sonnet for the Misbegotten,” “The Guardians,” “Red Rover,” and “Daylight Savings”) here.

Listen to an interview focusing on the differences between craft in poetry and craft in fiction— “Jill Bialosky: The Players in our lives” by Doug Dangler—here.

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