Poem from Slate: “El Dorado”

Image source: http://thisgurllovesjune.blogspot.com

This week’s featured poem from Slate is entitled El Dorado and is written by Peter Campion. As always, I encourage all of the blog readers to head on over to Slate to listen to the audio version of this poem. It’s just one click away and then you get to hear a poem read by its author — so why not take some time out of your busy evening for a little literature?

According to his page at the Poetry Foundation, Peter Campion‘s poetry collections include Other People(2005) and The Lions: Poems (2009). In addition to these collections, he has written essay and monographs for several painters, and regularly publishes literary and art criticism. He has won a Pushcart Prize for his work. Campion is editor of Literary Imagination, the journal of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics (ALSC).

El Dorado, by Peter Campion

After the accident when we were
safe on the shoulder and she leaned against me
gripping our son as the cruiser
strobed blue and red

there came the helplessness     the bare
nerve shudder giving up to air

so in those moments
“I” was this person with my name and also no one

so remembering
crumpled steel and
sun on the silos for miles beyond us

I can make no connection


Only the ancient story    how a man
clambered from caves where days he dwelt alone
and tribesmen came anointing him
with balsam gum then
sputtering gold dust
through wooden tubes all over him

He walked the talus to the lake where a raft awaited
braziers lavishing shine on the heaped gold

At the center of the lake he scattered
handfuls of gold to the water
and returning to the shore
he doused himself
so colors elusive as the coins and squiggles
on the dorsal of a trout

fell to the cratered basin    treasure
the invaders found
vanishing always to wild interior

fell as the tribesmen
bellowed through jaguar masks


No one along the breakdown lane in northern Iowa
dressed as a jaguar    no one dripped with gold

But that shiver of surrender
flooding my chest
that tremble of unclenching muscle

stranded in the miles of soy bean fields
between one home we left and one we’d never seen

I tell you    my wife and son
their warmth against me
the houses
small from the road as a spatter of paint chips

even the billboard above us   chewed up
furniture bobbing in the blue
even my own skin

shone with the promise
there was nothing more than this
train of moments

streaming through air
everything gathering
light to its contours
before it disappears

Until next time, readers! Don’t forget to check out the audio version of this poem at Slate!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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