Barter: Poems by Ira Sadoff

Award winning, widely anthologized poet, novelist, and short story writer, Ira Sadoff has published six collections of poetry, including Grazing, Emotional Traffic and Palm Reading In Winter. He has also published a novel, Uncoupling, and The Ira Sadoff Reader, a collection of stories, poems, and essays. His poems have appeared in most major literary magazines, including The New Yorker, The American Poetry, The Paris Review, The Nation, The New Republic, Esquire, Antaeus, The Hudson Review, and The Partisan Review.

Ira Sadoff's poems have appeared in Best Poems of 2002, have been awarded the Leonard Shestack Prize, the Pushcart Poetry Prize, and the George Bogin Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America. He has taught at the University of Virginia, the Iowa Writers Workshop, and currently teaches at Colby College.


"The Soul"

The shaft of narrative peers down.
The soul's a petrified fleck of partridge this October.
Mud-spattered, it thinks it's brush, it thinks
it's one with the brush when God aims

just below its feathers. It's too late to raise the soul,
some ossified conceit we use to talk about deer
as if we were deer, to talk about the sun, as if the cold
autumn light mirrored our lover asleep in the tub.

Nevertheless, I want to talk about it. Those scarred bodies
on the hospital table, they're white chalk children use
to deface the sidewalk. The deer fed in the gazebo,
where the salt lick was barely safe from the fox.

And when the wind didn't drag my scent to her,
I sat listless, half-awake, and watched her hunger
surpass her timidity. I should have been changed.
I should have been startled into submission

by a very white light, I should have shed my misgivings
as her tongue made that sticky sound on the lick
and two startled animals stared into what St. Francis
called a mystery. I should bring her back, the woman too,

the woman who what why words fail me here.
I should sanctify the hospital gown as it slides down
the tunnel of the catscan, to see where
the nodules have spread into the thin, pliable tissues

we call the innards in animals, because they dwell
in scenery, they're setting for the poem, they provide
a respite from the subject who's been probed and lacerated,
who's been skinned and eaten away by the story

when I'm beguiled by the music the hooves made
on the pine floor. I can bring her back, can't I,
I'm bringing him back, the hero who was close enough
so I could watch what was inside his face hover and scatter.