Prisons of Invention
What stairs lead to what chambers in this vast
interior? What vaults support what roof,
what balustraded walkways lead the way
from futile A to futile B? What chains
suspend what chandeliers? What massy stone
is broken by what windows? On the bridge
or stairway, tiny figures stand. An arm
points up toward a shadowed stair – a blot
looms at that balustrade. And on this plate,
no breathing thing appears but for the forms
that dot the edifice. No hint of day
has blessed this scene, though light descends across
the somber architecture from a source
we can’t see, near the ceiling. Might it be
the sun of summer? It is not. The world
is stone and iron; not a thing remains
of green or blue to warm the heart, in this
dark prison of invention we have built.
John Claiborne Isbell
Since 2016, various MSS of John’s have placed as finalist or semifinalist for The Washington Prize (three times), The Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes (twice), the Elixir Press 19th Annual Poetry Award, The Gival Press Poetry Award, the 2020 Able Muse Book Award (twice) and the 2020 and 2021 Richard Snyder Publication Prizes. John published his first book of poetry, Allegro, in 2018, and has published in Poetry Durham, threecandles.org, the Jewish Post & Opinion, Snakeskin, The HyperTexts, and The Ekphrastic Review. He has published books with Oxford and with Cambridge University Press and appeared in Who’s Who in the World. He also once represented France in the European Ultimate Frisbee Championships. He retired this summer from The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, where he taught French and German and coached men’s and women’s ultimate. His wife continues to teach languages there.
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