TWO POEMS by Brooks Haxton


Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Psalm 42

Down from twilight into dark at noon,
through darker, down until the black
could not be more devoid of star
or sunlight, o my soul, near freezing
in sub-photic stillness past
the fragile strands of glowing jelly
radiant with tentacles to sting,
and bioluminescent lures of anglers,
down where water beading on the cold hatch
overhead has sheathed in dewdrops
the titanium, past dragonfish
with nightlights set into their heads
and flanks, past unlit cruisers,
blackcod, owl fish, eelpout, skate,
where spider crabs, arms long as mine,
on creamy prongs drift floodlit
over the pillow lava, here,
our craft has taken us where no one
could have come till now but corpses.





Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy
Psalm 42

The waterfall in sunlight is God
talking to herself. Her voice
poured into the trees asks
nothing, to prove nothing,
and her way of asking
says by overflowing what
may not be said. The stream
unbroken at the rock’s
edge bursts with downflung
beads where daylight bursts
and drops. Though deaf, I listen
through my shoesoles, through
the stone ledge, into the water,
thrumming, into the spray and light.


This picture I took on Rosh Hashanah thirty years ago. A congregation was going down to the ocean at Coney Island Beach to say a prayer that “the love of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters fill the sea.” Even for unbelievers like me, a poem can be a prayer that the poet, the reader, and the world may overflow with healing.


Brooks Haxton, born in Greenville, Mississippi, in 1950, is the son of the novelist Ellen Douglas and the composer Kenneth Haxton. His publications include eight books of original poems and translations from the French and ancient Greek, including They Lift Their Wings to Cry (Knopf), Uproar: Antiphonies to Psalms (Knopf), and Selected Poems by Victor Hugo, translated by Brooks Haxton (Viking Penguin). The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation, Haxton teaches in the writing programs at Syracuse University and Warren Wilson College. He lives in Syracuse with his wife and three children.

2 thoughts on “TWO POEMS by Brooks Haxton

  1. I read all the poems posted and really appreciated Submersible by Brooks Haxton.
    I reread it several times as it seems to capture the mystery and beauty of the oceanic depth
    which is being poisoned by the oil spill. Crude oil from the sea floor is not per se a poison
    but being mishandled by corporate BP has caused it to be.
    These poems are all good for the soul!

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