If there is a world where all care is intensive,
every symptom deeply monitored, where
the ultimate purpose of math is charting
compassion from chamber
to chamber, this isn’t necessarily it. 

Money breaks like a wave against us,
grinding itself for the sake of the salt
of some stillness beyond suffering? 

Is there, on any of the 300 million worlds
in the habitable zones of sunlike stars,
a planet where it’s always your own flesh
and blood on the line, never a stranger
behind the mask?

Where if anyone flinches from the needle
that stings but can’t quite find the vein,
the whole field and fabric of being flinches?

And if there’s a bright surge in her face,
a comeback of mortal breath now and then,
the whole world is reminded
how brief and timely a spark it takes,
how little kindling the mortal fire
is still willing to work with.


Max Garland’s newest book of poems, Into the Good World Again, will be out March 14. Previous books include The Word We Used for It, winner of the Brittingham Poetry Prize, The Postal Confessions, winner of the Juniper Prize, and Hunger Wide as Heaven. He has received an NEA Poetry Fellowship, Michener Fiction Fellowship, Bush Artist Fellowship, inclusion in Best American Short Stories, and fellowships in poetry and fiction from the Wisconsin Arts Board. Born and raised in Kentucky, he is professor emeritus at UW-Eau Claire, the former Writer-in-Residence for the City of Eau Claire, and the former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin.


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