Aphorism Aporia

By A. E. Stallings

Featured Art: Study for “An Aragonese Smuggler” by William Turner Dannat

What else should I do
But cry for what is spilled?
Not for the fresh glass,
Frothy, newly filled,
Safe on the tabletop
Beside the slice of cake,
Still untouched and chilled,

But for this little lake
The cat laps on the floor,
The glass poured for your sake,
That you would have me pour,
Negative of ink
Filling in the blank
Indelible mistake—

Sweet where tears are salt,
White as oblivion
The souls must learn to drink—
To watch it now escape—
With just myself to thank,
Out of the glass’s tall
Pure transparent shape,

What cannot be put back
And what is past recall:
Secret we couldn’t keep,
Hint I had to drop,
Fall turned into fault.
It’s done, but it won’t stop.
What’s there to do but weep?


A. E. Stallings‘ first poetry collection, Archaic Smile, was awarded the 1999 Richard Wilbur Award. Her poetry has appeared in the Best American Poetry series (1994 & 2000) and has received numerous awards, including the 2008 Benjamin H. Danks prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Pushcart Prize, the Eunice Tietjens Prize (1997), and the Frederick Bock Prize (2004) from Poetry. Her second poetry collection, Hapax, received the 2008 Poets’ Prize. She lives in Athens, Greece, with her husband and son.

Originally published in NOR 6

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