Cover image for After the others : poems
After the others : poems
Weigl, Bruce, 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Evanston, Ill. : TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 73 pages ; 20 cm

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PS3573.E3835 A69 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Winner of the 2006 Lannan Foundation Award for Poetry

In his twelfth volume of poetry, Bruce Weigl continues his quest for emotional and spiritual enlightenment. Quiet and moving, these poems combine an intimate voice with a searingly direct look at suffering and senseless violence, at human desire and love, and at man's relationship with nature.

Author Notes

Bruce Weigl (born January 27, 1949, Lorain, Ohio) is an American contemporary poet who teaches at Lorain County Community College. Weigl enlisted in the United States Army shortly after his 18th birthday and spent three years in the service. He served in the Vietnam War from December 1967 to December 1968 and received the Bronze Star . When he returned to the United States, Weigl obtained a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College, and a Master of Arts Degree in Writing/American and British Literature from the University of New Hampshire. From 1975-76, Weigl was an instructor at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A collection of new work and a retrospective selection together afford an overview of one of the best American poets shaped by the Vietnam War. An air cavalryman in that conflict, Weigl writes astonishingly atmospheric poems about the scary, the boring, the appalling, and the pathetic moments of an ordinary soldier's service in "the green war," as he calls it. He also writes of his contact with Buddhism during the war and later, of moments of shame and pain in his life that include sexual abuse by a stranger when he was seven, of the sorrows and hard work of his immigrant grandparents, and of the struggles of oppressed people he has met in Central America. The Vietnam experience made him keenly, sometimes desperately aware of suffering, so that once he found himself squatting "like I'd learned in Dak To / on the seventh floor window ledge / across from the park of the homeless." Much as it attracts him, he seems not quite to believe that Buddhist enlightenment is possible, which makes the tenderness with which he writes of his son resonate with redemption. The 17 new poems in Archeology of the Circle reappear in After the Others in the company of 25 more, some of which show a new interest in Native American concerns; and others, a new gratitude for love. This is the powerful, seldom easy work of a very distinctive poet. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

The first five volumes covered in Weigels Archeology (1976s Executioner to 1988s Song of Napalm) dwell on Weigls firsthand experiences of Americas southeast Asian war, returning obsessively to combat terror, witnessed atrocities and cravings for underaged prostitutes. However laudable his brutal honesty, lines like I was barely in country soon become tiresome. Weigls best poems come from his three 1990s volumes (particularly from After the Others, represented in Archeology with selections marked as New Poems) where he begins to distill his themes of disgust and horror within non-Vietnam contexts. Weigls most grimly powerful poems, all found in Archeology, are The Impossible, an account of being forced, as a seven-year-old boy, to perform oral sex on a strange man, and The Nothing Redemption, a disgusting vision of a young man whose hole/ was plastered closed with his own excrement in an attempt to disqualify himself from military service. Snowy Egret (from 1985) and Carp (a more pressurized rhyme sonnet from 1996s Sweet Lorain) are convincing documents of regret for mindless boyhood destruction of animal life. The complex and unsettling Pineapple (appearing in both volumes) is a recollection of a womans seductive behavior in a supermarket fruit aisle; tinged with lust and violence, it somehow reaches its dark climax in the narrators refusal to respond to the womans advances. That poem and other notables in After the Others (such as the squalid The Singing and the Dancing and the desperate Anniversary of Myself) make that book the most consistently rewarding effort from this still evolving poet. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Excerpt     After the others everything changed. They took the mountains then crossed the river swiftly in their long boats. Always they have come. They took the trees. They took the brown earth and the small houses. They silenced the voices and took the words so no one could tell the story of the time before because they have always come, because there is no time before. Under a single blue cloud a man and a woman touched each other. An unfaithful gratuity of dogs appeared. The old people stopped speaking. They would not bear witness to the visitations or to the jangled, rising noise of gabble conjured in place of a history. God was invented so they could bear their suffering. In the end they had only each other and wandering, alone, that was not enough.     Ant I saw the proverbial ant, load of dead moth flesh across its back, stumbling, but purposeful to the exquisite, headed home along its trail of sweat and tears. I was not looking for meaning. I wanted only to ease myself away from our earth into nothing and I saw my own stunned white body slung across the ant's back as it trudged towards the dark inside and the hum of our good news.     The Happy Land I dread those lace doilies lonely women stitch for the ill, and the surplice of the unchaste boy who serves the morning mass, though always I have believed and practiced prayer, even when I stalked those alleys to murder in mindless boyhood boredom so many righteous songbirds that I will never know their forgiveness which I had imagined would feel like their tiny hearts felt sputtering out in my hand because I had launched those jagged stones so precisely.     Praise Wound Dirt Skin Sky Praise wound. Praise dirt in the wound that made the metal fester in the skin. Praise wound that closed over like night sky. Praise the sharp cutting metal exploded into splinters, physics of shrapnel, my science. Praise skin, how it pushed the splinters out against all odds through the scar to the cot in the city where I waited where I walked in the place of emperors.     In the Realm of Cricket Because he is the last cricket alive in the glass world my son built for his lizards, this one begins to sing with his luminous saw-blade legs. On the forked branch we cut from a spruce, the lizards sleep on top of each other and blink as though they each had discovered a star to cling to. Their bellies full, they do not hear or care for the cricket's song that seems a clear announcement against time. From under the only rock, the last cricket tells its story. How all the others, whose names we may not say because they're lost, have gone before. How they left neither in anger, nor with regret. How the world is no less without them, which is why he must sing. The Inexplicable Abandonment of Habit in Eclipse My father and his father punched the card in and out every day and did not love their lives. They worked too hard for nothing wages, then bitched to their wives in restless beds and grew around themselves a coat of sullenness. I was not conscience-calmed then. Almost always I played a silent war game to myself, and a memory of my father leaning in the doorway watching night birds sweep and then pass upwards into a suddenly dark afternoon sky gives me no peace.     Prologue in Minor Key, for the Ancestors They thought the sun was a wheel, turning, and in their great horror they imagined that it would stop. Now blood runs in our rivers, while we loved and we loveless ones linger in the gauzy field of time that we invented, that we believe does not circle the sun or make the sun circle itself. We live inside of a history that no longer remembers us, that began when the sky was torn through with someone's red fingers at the heights of their sacred places that rose from the river valley where our people cut out living hearts to feed to the sun, to keep it moving. What He Said When They Made Him Tell Them Everything Bad coke blues. The way some people feel the music more. The way the music comes inside and takes their bodies (I have seen this happen), and takes their arms and legs and hips. The hips are especially taken. She came from the other life to show me her face and to open herself so I could taste the world blessed once more and once more damned. And how I squatted that way in Cholon the hour before light so the cruising MP's would think I was not who I was, and I would lift us all to be among the lilies piled high as men if I could. Her face so close to mine, so soon and public made me shiver in the memory of her by the river of the green place where we had been torn apart. I felt her hard bite on my arm that could have been harder, angel's blood in my mouth in the inn by the circle of afternoon boys where she lay into my curled shape. I wanted to note the passage of loss through our bodies: the azaleas that would blossom into nothing, that would not forgive the winter its indiscretions; the red bud mouths that would not open in time. Copyright © 1999 Bruce Weigl. All rights reserved.