A STRANGE VITALITY
By Joanna Chen
I saw a body fly through the air
last night on the highway—
a tiny Chagall figure, arms
belonging to a diver, legs
to an astronaut, his helmet a halo
of blue, catapulted into a swirling
sky edged in thunder. Before he landed
I thought of my father-in-law
born in Belarus, a gentle wisp
of a man whose eyes, pale
gray on his death bed, tore
through the frame of life.
Joanna Chen is a British writer currently living in Israel. Her essays, poems, and literary translations have been published in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Poet Lore, Asymptote, Guernica, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast, among others.
Editor’s Note: A brilliant, devastating little poem. A poem that contains the human body, sky and thunder, memory and death within its twelve short lines. And those lines! Their movement, their lyricism, their power. How epic the body, “catapulted into a swirling / sky edged in thunder,” how soft the repose, the “gentle wisp / of a man [with] eyes, pale.” And from that softness, the final throe–of the poem and of the life it recalls–the man who “tore / through the frame of life.”
This poem is an impactful experience on the page, and it is another experience to hear it read aloud by the poet. I suggest you hop over to Radar, click the play button, and read along as Joanna Chen adds another dimension to this work.
Want more from Joanna Chen?
The View From Here – Los Angeles Review of Books
“Betrayal” by Agi Mishol, Translated by Joanna Chen
“All is Forgiven Between Us” – Narratively
“What the Trees Reveal” – Guernica