Sarah Bonifacio


The instant of decision is madness.  Kierkegaard
Just as the river where I step is not the same, and is, so I am as I am not.  Heraclitus

     The song
of decision is madness
     of end, no end saving that
in transition; no end saving that
    preceding transition; no end,
in turn, that never at once
     is beginning or is.
Yet what then of ruptures
     of breath, the word's

     We are as we aren't,
the waters sing:
     First this, now this;
 first this, now this . . .
      Stepped in if stepped out
of, never the same.


after a terracotta jar with three handles, ca. 1600-1800 B.C., from Schliemann's collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Encased without a heart, without a story,
   the Minoan jar survives. My eyes begin
at the surface of its figure: silent waves
   of an ash-ocean

that revolve without end, without feeling, to
   the might of its own design. I want its life
of warm unknowing:  No past existed
   for the Minoans.

No past could.  After their earth's betrayal,
   after their earth's wrath--an eruption from
which the Minoans, armed with delicacy,
   had not recovered--

no self, stunted, could they injure more through
   stark reflection. No self but art endured: the
pattern on this jar, entrancing my eyes to an
   illusion of peace.

So be it.  Let this death-jar bellow for all.
   Let it, like the frescoes of dolphins and pink
leaping bulls that garland the walls of the sea-
   palace in Knossos,

shine forth and delude me. Though it is rumored
   the Minoans devoured each other, or would
sacrifice offspring by burning, who am I
   to be revolted?

Accept, accept the ash-waves of their sea, an
   eternally winter-water; and the darker,
loose petals and leaves that hover above it--
   star-like fixities

which the Minoans, in their secret boldness,
   embraced and understood. A fire occurred,
and was all. Why return from it? Why tear off
   their soot-cloaks and weep?

No, I hear them. Once, they were joyous. Once, they
   were free, free; the earth pressed them close to the hymns
of her heart. Once, once. And not again, for time
   is no elixir.


Woman, where are your accusers?  Has no man condemned you?
John 8:10

This bone through the heart--
is it possible, such an ache?
In the dark I take your hand
and hold it there, hold it where
the bone lives, a loose tent of skin
swelling thinly its wish to be torn.
Sensing maybe that yes, this pain is
pure--thus beautiful, as is said,
after all.  If I think hard, feel hard,
I'll dream the bone is a lote-tree's
thorn, or a blade heroic, or purer yet,
a stone--yes, that. Yes, lend me your
temple.  Press hard.  Hear it?  A stone,
the first one cast, and always my own.


There's a tree behind my house, firm and dead.
I hear it this moment, speaking nothing.
It seems to shake the spindles off its head,
but then I know that's just the wind working.
A branch without color bends close to me,
brushes the window where I place my hand;
it stiffens everything, this garden-greed--
under the fat of ivy, the trunk stands sapped.
Still, the tree glints through the deep afternoon:
Wisdom and brilliance, wisdom and brilliance.
It's what was rooted here, what grew and grew;
it's what a driver would see in the distance:
Death as an oak, mute and grizzled and proud;
in time, in time, I should have it cut down.

Sarah Bonifacio

Sarah Bonifacio graduated from Drew University in May 2006, earning a B.A. in English and Classics.  While at Drew, she edited the student-run literary magazine, Insanity's Horse, in 2004-05, and was awarded the Robert Chapman Prize for Poetry.  Currently preparing herself for graduate  school, she works at a law firm in Manhattan, and is "writing poems always."



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