While the rest of us mumble, look away, and generally avoid matters of consequence, poets seek no such cover. Indeed, Heather Altfeld and others of her inquisitive ilk lead the interrogation of a mad world. Winner of the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, in addition to the Poets at Work Prize for her collection The Disappearing Theatre, Altfeld teaches in the Comparative Religion and Humanities Department at California State University, Chico.
Shame is the first death.
It finds you at four,
drawing your name on the dining furniture.
Sex is the second. It is the room
in the house you never knew about, hidden
behind the closet, beneath the floorboards,
a party dim as a whisper
until you pull back the wood
and see the giant open-air market,
with the flying monkeys and the fire throwers
and the gaudy musicians and the trapeze
you will climb and fall from, over and over,
in a vaudeville of pleasure.
Love is the third death, the great detour
around the self, an improbable road
straight up Everest that hobbles you in the knees
and rolls you down, popping wheelies in the snow.
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