Brett Foster, Two Poems for the Humanities

Artes Liberales

“The miserable servitude
of the spirit”
is not exactly how one wants to hear it:
that’s just plain rude.

Yet Augustine, I suppose,
knew a thing or two
of everything one must do
to grow out of requisite imbroglios,

to grow out of your own
heart, or at best,
to enter the contest
imparting a different throne

or emancipated alter-
ego. Let go the facts
wearing their cataracts
or pirate’s patch of faults,

swelling shortcomings. Instead,
raise the mind’s eye
to vaulted ceilings high
overhead, as Hippo’s bishop said,

and forgo all carnal acts
of reading (though honest ones
would say that sure sounds fun).
Pay the mental luxury tax.

And by so doing, cultivate
a heart vivified.
Only the bland or snide
or blinded conflate

or substitute the sign
for thing, and therefore keep
failing to bite through or drink deep.
It’s a thin line,

and yet a vast chasm as well,
to shift from our blunt
meth-head spasms to wisdom’s font
and dwell

within a cedared house there.
Ambiguity, causing pain,
spurs the bludgeoned reader big with chains
and requires no little care.


Back-to-School Rondeau

It’s almost time to set aside the waning
distractions of first youth, the life contained
for years at home. What’s home? The place you grow
out of, everything receding slowly,
fading like a chalked sidewalk in the rain.

Leave childish things behind, said a certain
fellow. (Others afterward.) Don’t remain:
the friends gone late in summer let you know
it’s almost time.

Don’t leave behind new clothes, impromptu plans-
they’ll match surroundings well, remind again
of shining coming: new homes to let go
of, too; the best things said; mind’s overflow;
surprising callings; time for love, and pain.
It’s almost time.

Brett Foster teaches Renaissance literature and creative writing at Wheaton College, where he co-advises the student literary journal Kodon and co-organizes a faculty humanities colloquium. His first poetry book, The Garbage Eater, was published in 2011 by Triquarterly Books / Northwestern University Press, and was featured in Poets & Writers and on Poetry Daily. A second smaller collection, Fall Run Road, was recently awarded Finishing Line Press’s 2011 chapbook prize, and is forthcoming. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Cellpoems, The Common, Green Mountains Review, Hudson Review, IMAGE, Measure, Pleiades, Poetry East, Raritan, Seattle Review, Shenandoah, and Southwest Review. Other writing has appeared in Books & Culture, The Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, and Literary Imagination.

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