Literature 10-6-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Joyce Sutphen

Read "At the Cardiologist's" by Joyce Sutphen, this week's winning What Light poem, selected by Carol Muske-Dukes.


At the Cardiologist’s

She thinks about things that have no meter,
things that cannot be measured in seconds,
things that have no heartbeat because her own
heart is broken now, and there is no cure.

He says that everything is looking
good: there are no blockages, no high risk
factors to consider; she won’t die of
this for at least twenty more years—odds are.

If only she could sit in his office
all afternoon, watching little slices
of her heart beating so faithfully; if
only she could go on as steadily

as that, without even knowing what makes
it possible, without trying too hard.


I like poetry that is tight and lean, that leads me to think things I hadn’t thought before and does that in a clean, unpretentious way; I go to poetry for what I can’t find anywhere else—it’s hard to say what that is, but I always know it when I see it (or hear it). For years now I’ve been memorizing poems I especially like, ones that sound good and can keep me company.


Joyce Sutphen’s first book, Straight Out of View, won the Barnard New Women’s Poets Prize (Beacon Press, 1995). Coming Back to the Body (Holy Cow! Press, 2000) was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award, and Naming the Stars (Holy Cow! Press 2004), won a Minnesota Book Award in Poetry. She is one of the co-editors of the anthology To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from the Territorial Days to the Present (Fall 2006, New Rivers Press). Currently she teaches literature and creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.