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Stan Sanvel Rubin


Stan Sanvel Rubin’s work has appeared in numerous magazines including The Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Carolina Quarterly, Iowa Review, Florida Review, Poetry Northwest and others. His fourth full collection, There. Here., was published by Lost Horse Press in 2013. His third, Hidden Sequel, won the Barrow Street Poetry Book Prize. He lives on the northern Olympic Peninsula of Washington state.

A History of Meaning

The Ancients would sit in their houses thinking
or walk around the town plaza thinking
or maybe roam the woods surrounding the town
where they might hear the woods themselves speak
or the goddesses and gods speak through trees or a stone,
or they’d stay hidden in cold monasteries with scrolls of parchment
open in front of them and enormous folios by candlelight.
Many of the thoughts they thought were about God,
but often what they thought about was thought itself,
the awful burden it is to think.
How you can’t think your way out of it.
Teachers don’t help. Disciples don’t help.
They piled up words like a mountain of skulls.
Sometimes, they’d watch the birds for comfort.

Now, closer to the end of the universe
(though it is still pretty far away, we know it’s there),
we’re capable of reading our ultimate destiny––
the destiny of all of us, of everything––
in signals from the most distant stars,
the galaxies pushing the edge of the universe
out into the future even while making the past
more and more readable as it becomes more and more distant…
You get the idea. In your life, it’s not easy.
Why does anyone have to have cancer?
Why does your daughter have to marry that creep?
The problem of meaning is like a tower.
There are so many ways up and no destination.
Even if you don’t try to climb it, it’s always in your way.



for J

Suddenly, at the sink, I call your name
breathless with grief.

There is nowhere to turn away
from your carefully chosen dishes,

my pain wells up undrained
as if the soap bubbles

were filling this room
trying to wash me away.

What are we,
that we cannot be cleansed of our losses?
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