Section LXXV. from Asylum: A Personal, Historical, Natural Inquiry in 103 Lyric Sections
In Their Own Words
Jill Bialosky on “Section LXXV." from Asylum: A Personal, Historical, Natural Inquiry in 103 Lyric Sections
Because vines glue to the tree’s
trunk & climb up to the highest coronary,
& like a thick umbilical cord snake down its bark
like a slither in a manifest garden,
until they eventually strangle the life
cell by cell, leaf by leaf, stripping its greenery,
limb by limb, compressing
the cambium’s vascular system—
until the trunk, a hollow
totem of itself.
from our deck,
season after season,
year after year,
to take down one, to protect
the other, the puzzle
of not knowing
which will prosper & which will fail—
& the forever mystery of why, whereas some vines, for instance,
transform over time to birth a healthy sapling,
while others are souls which quit the case it tore itself from,
whose seeds cast into the wind & higgledy-piggledy
shoot up for the harpies to feed themselves upon.
From Asylum: A Personal, Historical, Natural Inquiry in 103 Lyric Sections. Copyright © 2020 by Jill Bialosky. Reprinted with permission.
Jill Bialosky on "Section LXXV." from Asylum: A Personal, Historical, Natural Inquiry in 103 Lyric Sections
Survival, suicide and community, whether a community of trees, a family or society are themes explored in Asylum: A Personal, Historical, Natural Inquiry in 103 Lyric Sections, from which this center-piece poem appears. It’s the only poem in the sequence that is a “Concrete” poem, a poem for which the shape of the poem echoes the content. Asylum circles around ideas of survival and extinction, and in this poem, number LXXV. of the sequence, I call upon Dante’s Inferno, the seventh circle in the Wood of the Suicides, where the souls of those who took their life shoot up like saplings, without a body, still in pain. I wanted the poem to wrestle with the idea of why some souls survive and others, like trees in a stand in a forest, for whatever reason, aren’t able to. For me the questions I circle are personal, having lost a sister to suicide, but also communal. In Asylum, and in this poem from the book length sequence, I invite the reader to recognize that the act of suicide is an individual as well as a communal loss and responsibility.