Skip to main content
By David St. John

The way a tired Chippewa woman

Who’s lost a child gathers up black feathers,

Black quills & leaves

That she wraps & swaddles in a little bale, a shag

Cocoon she carries with her & speaks to always

As if it were the child,

Until she knows the soul has grown fat & clever,

That the child can find its own way at last;

Well, I go everywhere

Picking the dust out of the dust, scraping the breezes

Up off the floor, & gather them into a doll

Of you, to touch at the nape of the neck, to slip

Under my shirt like a rag—the way

Another man’s wallet rides above his heart. As you

Cry out, as if calling to a father you conjure

In the paling light, the voice rises, instead, in me.

Nothing stops it, the crying. Not the clove of moon,

Not the woman raking my back with her words. Our letters

Close. Sometimes, you ask

About the world; sometimes, I answer back. Nights

Return you to me for a while, as sleep returns sleep

To a landscape ravaged

& familiar. The dark watermark of your absence, a hush.


David St. John, “Hush” from Study for the World’s Body: Selected Poems (New York: HarperCollins, 1994). Copyright © 1994, 2005 by David St. John. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1994)

Poet Bio

David St. John was born in Fresno, California. He earned his BA at California State University, Fresno and earned his MFA at Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has received numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, including both the Rome Fellowship and the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the O.B. Hardison Prize for teaching and poetic achievement from the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the George Drury Smith Lifetime Achievement Award from Beyond Baroque. St. John has taught at Oberlin College, Johns Hopkins University, and currently lives in Venice Beach, CA.

More Poems about Living

Browse poems about Living

More Poems about Relationships

Browse poems about Relationships