Gone Poet

Not so long ago, epidemiologists said of a new deadly virus, “not if, but when.” Now the answer is “now.” I read all the news all day long, and it seems there is nothing left to say. Then today a friend wrote me with a “chain mail” poetry letter. So I sent a poem to a stranger, one of my favorite Robert Creeley poems, I Know a Man.

So there are words after all. I will start by digging up some poems I wrote half a lifetime ago. And maybe I will start writing some new ones.

Cactus Leaves

I’m getting
used to the idea
of death
he said to her
while she lay
sucking cactus
leaves, occasionally
sitting upright
to pull a thorn
from her teeth,
and  later, when
the glare gave
way, they made
love in the sand
seeking redemption
then talked
smoking about the
lack of things
to dwell on ever
since abandoning
the Cutlass on the
side of I-91
having assumed
it wasn’t carrying
them anywhere
but still neither
of them mentioned
their visions:
the well and the
swelling tide and

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.

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