Monday, May 3, 2010

Paul Mariani

Paul Mariani is a contemporary American poet, who was born in New York City. He holds a Chair in Poetry at Boston College, and is known for the biographies he’s written of poets, such as William Carlos Williams (for which he was a finalist for the American Book Award), John Berryman, Robert Lowell, and, most recently, Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Paul Mariani has written six collections of poetry, including his latest — Deaths & Transfigurations (Paraclete Press, 2005). The following poem comes from his collection, The Great Wheel (W.W. Norton).

The Cistern

In the limestone cistern
beneath St. Peter Gallicantu
in Jerusalem, my back against
the wall, try as I might,
I could not keep from weeping.
I am a man gone down into the pit,
we listened to Fr. Doyle reading,
a man shorn of his strength,
one more among the dead,
among those You have forgotten.

And did he call upon the psalms
to warm him in his need?
The night before he died
they dragged him here to try him.
What answers he could give
lay shattered on the pavement.
Later his quizzers grew tired
and impatient. Let others try him
in the morning. Enough for now
to knot a rope across his chest
and drop him into darkness.

Hanging by his wrists, Eli
he would cry out, Eli, and again
they would misread him, thinking
he was calling on Elijah.
As each of us will be alone,
friends scattered to the winds.
Except for one out in the courtyard
growing cold, poised now to deny him.
Darkness, the psalmist ended.
The one companion left me.

*This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Paul Mariani: second post, third post.

(Posted with permission of the poet)

Read my Books & Culture review of Paul Mariani's poetry collection
Deaths & Transfigurations here

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: