Spencer Reece


Griffin Poetry Prize 2015
International Shortlist

Book: The Road to Emmaus

Poet: Spencer Reece

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.

Spencer Reece reads from The Upper Room

from The Upper Room

For Mary Jane Zapp

If you looked up, you might have seen me,
although few saw me in that room:
it required crossing the threshold
from the profane to the sacred,
a paradoxical proposition for most, including myself.
But I went in search of the transcendent in those days,
which required leaving a particular world for another.
It is never easy to abandon a world.
It was my second attempt.
This time I was much older
and the strident faiths of my younger colleagues
often gave me pause.

I lived on the third floor on 363 Ronan Street.
By that time in my life I recognized the room was temporary –
from the start, I accepted the dwelling’s transitory nature.
Each November, between shut gray New England spaces,
I saw nervous birds, those itinerant immigrants,
abandon the trees; addicts of seeing,
they charged the horizon when color was removed.
I pressed against the window
as if it were a museum case,
just as the world pressed against the windows of New Haven,
examining each one of us like a relic with a label,
in the same inquisitive, cursory manner.
The skyline was muted, ill-defined:
New Haven sprawled from Gothic elegance
to poverty without drama.
The landscape was obstructed:
we were deaf to the sea’s plainchant, could not smell its stink,
taste its salt, the harbor blocked by a highway and warehouses.

From The Road to Emmaus by Spencer Reece
Copyright © Spencer Reece 2014

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