Athanasia by Patricia Karamesines

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I would say I feel cold but no
that’s not right. I feel dark.
Winter has begun glooming bone
half so bright with fire as once cheered.
This arm and shoulder upon which I fell—
they make a rough fit.  Especially
I feel it there. My eyes rummage
squat days for gleams. In my chest
there’s a catch, as if these lungs
lose appetite, thin instants off each breath.

Spring wells up almost too late,
me panting for light.  Then with summer
the full gasp at last revives
one more solstice in the blood.

During my high and thieving youth,
I gorged on sun’s confections—cherries,
peaches, apples—climbing to the high reaches
among the wind’s fits and passions.

Now I hoard against the lightshed
of winter equinox fruit
others pick.  But these run out
and the sun gets no better.
Oblique, if not of its own angle,
from slants of storm.

When we think of resurrection,
(and we must think of it—
science writhes from that grave
cocoon toward winged athanasia),
should that day of first glory break
on winter’s dawn and I by some
unforeseen chance am called,
I shall not answer by any name.
There will not be enough holy apples
growing in God’s green mind to give me rise.
Sweetest science could not coax me
past the thin, grey snows.

But for whatever glory ascends summer’s spire,
with the wisdom of a potato in a root cellar,
my strands will feel end and beginning
bind up my spine and the earth lurch beneath wing
beats of swallows working airy theorems
across the blue board. “That,” I will say,
“that is the word I lay wanting.”
And up I’ll come from must with earthwise toads.

[Edited 12/21/2013 to remove introduced formatting symbols and to update the version.]


Patricia and her family live in the Four Corners region of the southwestern U.S. She has won many awards for her poetry, essays, and fiction. She is the author of The Pictograph Murders, a mystery set in the area where she lives. Some of her poetry appears in the recently published landmark anthology of Mormon poetry, Fire in the Pasture. An adjunct English professor for Utah State University-College of Eastern Utah, she teaches English composition and also works as a tutor for English. She is founding editor of Wilderness Interface Zone. This version of “Athanasia” is a recent re-write.

2 thoughts on “Athanasia by Patricia Karamesines”

  1. That captures so accurately how middle-age and feeling unwell can be! And the hope of something more eternal to come.

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