from This Broken Symmetry

(Force)

NOTHING ENTERS HERE THAT IS NOT GEOMETRY,
Block letters traced above the classroom door by her students
In Roanne, ordered for removal, though outside, under the cedar

That casts a shadow over them, they “discuss in perfect freedom.”
Her reason for hope? “To understand the force that crushes us,”
The Reichstag burnt, a calculated ruin, the new Chancellor risen

Out of the ash, hate, like a tuning fork, sharpening its pure note
To krystallnacht, transports, wrath, onslaught. In time she sees
The mechanism, how it works, brutal, how much less humans,

Even gods, make themselves things, the world a poem of force
With force the only story, the only actor, only hero, as when,
Enraged, Achilles affords his vengeance to the surging river,

Its currents wrung red with blood, banks slung with corpses,
Hacked flesh nibbled by fish, a torrent seething downstream
Until the river so dams with bodies they block its path to sea

And the river rears up, wrathful, gushing to slay the god-man,
So force mounts without measure or equilibrium, its rush
And flood, not heroic, not now: fire bombs, lightning war,

Factory work mastered to groove a pure symphony of death.
No, not now: Berlin before the coup, at the café where she sits
Awaiting her parents. Is she thinking of Niobe, her children

Murdered and still she eats, how nature drowns the inner life?
“Just a few uniformed Nazis on the streets, and they behave
Like everyone else.” A thought, passing, under the beech trees.

Daniel Tobin

Daniel Tobin

Daniel Tobin is the author of nine books of poems, most recently From Nothing, winner of the Julia Ward Howe Award, The Stone in the Air, his suite of versions from the German of Paul Celan, and Blood Labors.He is author of the critical studies Awake in America, Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, and On Serious Earth. Tobin is also editor of The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Light in Hand: Selected Early Poems of Lola Ridge, Poet’s Work, Poet’s Play: Essays on the Practice and the Arts (with Pimone Triplett) and To the Many: Collected Early Poems of Lola Ridge. His poetry has won the "The Discovery/The Nation Award," The Robert Penn Warren Award, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize, the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among other honors.
Daniel Tobin

Latest posts by Daniel Tobin (see all)

Author: Daniel Tobin

Daniel Tobin is the author of nine books of poems, most recently From Nothing, winner of the Julia Ward Howe Award, The Stone in the Air, his suite of versions from the German of Paul Celan, and Blood Labors. He is author of the critical studies Awake in America, Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, and On Serious Earth. Tobin is also editor of The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Light in Hand: Selected Early Poems of Lola Ridge, Poet’s Work, Poet’s Play: Essays on the Practice and the Arts (with Pimone Triplett) and To the Many: Collected Early Poems of Lola Ridge. His poetry has won the "The Discovery/The Nation Award," The Robert Penn Warren Award, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize, the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among other honors.