Everything Here Is a Test: Featured Poetry by Paige Lewis

October 9, 2019 | 1

Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem from Space Struck, a deft, entertaining debut by Paige Lewis. Lewis is a poet of surprise, but never mere novelty: behind play or pun, there remains transcendence. In this great second-person piece, the narrator gives instructions on how to leave that place of permanent stasis. “Lift your arms toward / the sky and receive nothing.” The poem loops and spins, perhaps, forever.

“So You Want to Leave Purgatory” 

Here, take this knife. Walk down 
the road until you come across 

a red calf in its pasture. It will 
run toward you with a rope tied 

around its neck. Climb over 
the fence. Hold the rope like a leash. 

You haven’t eaten in years. Think— 
are you being tested? Yes, everything 

here is a test. Stop baring teeth 
upon teeth and leave the calf 

to its grazing. Lift your arms toward 
the sky and receive nothing. Keep 

walking and think about the rope 
around that calf’s neck. Consider 

how fast its throat will be choked 
by its own growing. Walk until you 

understand what the knife was for. 
Now forget it. Here, take this knife. 

Copyright 2019 Sarabande Books/Paige Lewis. All rights reserved. Posted here with permission of Sarabande Books. 

is a contributing editor for The Millions. He is the culture editor for Image Journal, and a contributor to the Catholic Herald (UK). He has written for Rolling Stone, GQ, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Esquire, and the Kenyon Review. He is the author of Longing for an Absent God and Wild Belief. Follow him at @nickripatrazone and find more of his writing at nickripatrazone.com.

One comment:

  1. Damn. Great poem. How did the image and narrative arise? Sign of a charism of genius. First response: to marvel at the wit and art. Second though, to be deeply troubled. Third response: so is this playing on my neurotic bent toward guilt and feeling responsible even when that reaction is ultimately a grander sense of control and influence than is real, a side of narcissistic privilege? Or can it be nail on the head accurate? Maybe I’m overthinking it, between getting flat tire replaced and heading to orthopedic surgeon.

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