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By Anne Stevenson

The spirit is too blunt an instrument

to have made this baby.

Nothing so unskilful as human passions

could have managed the intricate

exacting particulars: the tiny

blind bones with their manipulating tendons,

the knee and the knucklebones, the resilient

fine meshings of ganglia and vertebrae,

the chain of the difficult spine.


Observe the distinct eyelashes and sharp crescent

fingernails, the shell-like complexity

of the ear, with its firm involutions

concentric in miniature to minute

ossicles. Imagine the

infinitesimal capillaries, the flawless connections

of the lungs, the invisible neural filaments

through which the completed body

already answers to the brain.


Then name any passion or sentiment

possessed of the simplest accuracy.

No, no desire or affection could have done

with practice what habit

has done perfectly, indifferently,

through the body’s ignorant precision.

It is left to the vagaries of the mind to invent

love and despair and anxiety

and their pain.


Anne Stevenson, "The Spirit is Too Blunt an Instrument" from Poems 1955-2005. Copyright © 2005 by Anne Stevenson. Reprinted with the permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd. www.bloodaxebooks.com

Source: Poems 1955-2005 (Bloodaxe Books, 2005)

  • Living
  • Nature

Poet Bio

Anne Stevenson
Born in Cambridge, England, Anne Stevenson moved between the United States and the United Kingdom numerous times during the first half of her life. While she considers herself an American, Stevenson qualifies her status: “I belong to an America which no longer really exists.” Since 1962 she has lived mainly in the U.K., including Cambridge, Scotland, Oxford, and, most recently, North Wales and Durham. Intersections and borders are common emblems in Stevenson’s work, though the land on which they are drawn is often mutable or shrouded in mist. See More By This Poet

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