Rereading Tranströmer in a Pandemic

by Steven Cramer

I’ve seen next to no one.
My street, which I’ve named
The Busiest in the Known Cosmos,
I could lay my body down on.

Nobody’s sick, goes the news
from Antarctica, where snow
petrels, to repel predators, spew
stomach oils from their beaks.

I’ve made it past sixty, brain
more intact than my fingernails.
My kids sing mostly on-key
like great poems with flaws.

Each circle deeper into Hell,
Dante and Virgil turn left.
For God, turn up. In what
ways does Purgatory turn?

Next to no one’s seen me.
Light in my bedroom window
glared down at me last night
from the house I grew up in.

Writing Prompt:
Chose a poet you love for a special stylistic voiceprint: Hayden’s synesthetic imagery (blueblack cold); Bishop’s qualifications (Our visions coincided—”visions” is/too serious a word—our looks…); Tranströmer’s mind-bending metaphors. Write a poem using traits analogous to your poet’s trademark (delete the dumb ones). Roleplay style, not subject.


Steven Cramer

Steven Cramer’s sixth collection, Listen, will be published by MadHat Press in October 2020. His poems and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Field, Kenyon Review, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry and other journals. Recipient of two grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, he founded and now teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Website: www.stevencramer.com