Aphorism 31: The Immortality Box

Winner of the 2023 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

. . .all night I am laying/ poems away in a long box./

It is my immortality box. . .

Anne Sexton, “The Ambition Bird”


It’s said that many of our diseases

are phenotypic consequences of adaptation

compromises made so that we don’t die

too quickly to pass our afflictions along because

of course diseases are about needs whether ours

or theirs a body just flesh inside of flesh just a box

ready-to-be-filled ready-to-be-emptied caskets

made of more caskets germs inside of seeds

inside of husks inside of days inside of all

the climbing hours all the up and out and walking

away the ripples of heat the spontaneous loam

where what we are and were arises like faces

breaking through a surface coppered with the sound

of distant bells with the sound of poems laid

like votives like shabti inside of boxes inside

of skin to wait like the afflictions they are

current to ground static to signal the words

we say even when we don’t: this is my blood

and this is my body broken for you.

John Blair has published six books, most recently Playful Song Called Beautiful (University of Iowa Press, 2016) as well as poems with magazines including Poetry, The Sewanee Review, The Georgia Review, The Colorado Review, and others. His new collection of poems about the beginning of the atomic age, The Shape of Things to Come, will be published this fall by Gival Press.