30 August 2008 | Vol. 8, No. 2


I've learned, has nothing

in common with the relentless

metronome of carpenter bees

ticking off the aluminum siding

like the steady hail of olive pits

spit through my open window

the summer I learned to shake

martinis without bruising the gin.

Nor does it exist in the imperfect

practice of swatting a strung racket

through the yard after the buzzing

shuttlecock bodies of bees.

This much I've pieced together

from experience, which should not be

mistaken for wisdom.

Wisdom is more

akin to the transformational,

that telephone pole of clarity

arriving from nowhere at 3 A.M.

like a telephone pole,

a kind of cosmic boom

lowered onto the head

of a drunken nineteen year old

behind the wheel of his father's

cherry Cadillac Coupe DeVille.

Or in the curiously familiar

stench of my own eyebrows

on fire again,

as I lowered

the fresh Pall Mall

still pinched

in my puckering lips

into the blazing

patch of open flame

between the teriyaki salmon

and the marbled flank steak

the boss was busy grilling

at the company picnic.

Shit happens.

People get fired

and rehired all the time,

but these, these

are the doozies in life,

the real hallmarks

from which we grow

a little scar

or develop a tic

we carry quietly with us

for the rest of our lives

as a sort of charm,

a crooked little loadstone,

a scar-tissue medallion

worn on the bridge of the nose

or beneath the twitching eye,

whose sole purpose in our world

is to catch us off guard,

to grab us

as we stride past ourselves

in the mirrored window

of a bank,

to remind us

at the most unlikely of times

we are, all of us, lucky

to be alive.

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About the author:

Sean Nevin teaches creative writing at Arizona State University where he is director of the Young Writer's Program and is co-editor of 22 Across: a Review of Young Writers. He is the recipient of Literature Fellowships in Poetry from both the NEA and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. His poems have been published in numerous journals including: the Gettysburg Review, North American Review, 42opus, JAMA, and Hayden's Ferry Review. He is the author of A House that Falls (Slapering Hol Press) and Oblivio Gate, which won the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry First Book Prize (Southern Illinois University Press).

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by Sean Nevin at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 8, No. 2, where "Wisdom" ran on August 30, 2008. List other work with these same labels: poetry.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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