Sunday (Pittsburgh) Musings

Don’t blame this carnage on the recession or any of the usual suspects, including increased competition for the reader’s time or diminished attention spans. What’s undermining the book industry is not the absence of casual readers but the changing habits of devoted readers.

For a decade, consumers mostly ignored electronic book devices, which were often hard to use and offered few popular items to read. But this year, in part because of the popularity of’s wireless Kindle device, the e-book has started to take hold.



Sometimes it can’t be avoided
even though you might decline
the invitation to step outside—
sometimes you are outside
maybe in the repose of your garden
among rose petal and fern, but the whole
unvarnished spectacle of do
before you’re done unto unfolding
as spider devours beetle, beetle, aphid,
and the cat red in the tooth and claw.

No need to bring up bombs bursting
in synch or the rockets’ red glare
or every laser fescue pointing out
all that’s erasable, good-bye good-bye.
It’s among school children now,
maybe even in your neighbor’s house,
eating ravenously at his table,
agreeing with everything he says.
Inside, your daughter is locking
all the basement windows, your son
is drawing a truth machine to zap
the bad from the good, and when
your wife comes home to tell you
of a small injustice she’s endured,
the arrow of your steely retribution
thwunks into a soft, imagined heart.
No one immune here, no one
merely a small flash in the pan:
everything hugely combustible.
In the garden, you’re deadheading
lilies, the petals spiraling down
like crushed wings, and your fingers,
steeped in pulp, are turning yellow,
orange, incarnadine, damage
creating its own aesthetic,
painting itself on your skin.
And if anyone asked you now
you’d confess you’re damage, too,
you’re for wreckage of heart and bone
wrenching out the smallest penance.
Above you, purple bruising the edges
of the sky. Even the heavens.
In another moment, someone
might come looking for you,
touch you on the shoulder
and you’d flame up.
Nothing seems so improbable
as the world of a few minutes ago.
Here’s the night full of stars.
Behind each one, the darkness
you can never see.
Gregory Djanikian
The Southern Review
Autumn 2008

Those are pleasant thoughts, but awful poetry — probably the worst three lines Robert Frost ever put to paper. Tellingly it was work for hire: the opening lines of “Dedication,” the poem Frost composed for John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration.

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