Mark Conway

1. Coming In

from The Book of Isaac, Burning


I will let him come freely into my presence
and he can come close to me;
who else, indeed, would risk his life
by coming close to me?



Before this life,

there was another, so

convincing in its ignorant display

of rain and lowlands  

we thought it might

go on forever.  We were

mistaken, in fact,

forgiven, you see, in that life 

we were young.


             Now nights

my son wonders

what was here before he came,

I could tell him

it was March.  I remember  

pitted snow,

the rotten roads. 


For weeks the prairie sky

was the dead-color of clay, then   

gashed by firelight – flames

from the distant

burning cities, remember? 


There was a turmoil in the broken snow

fields, like the narrowing

in the coming night.  He is young, once

I was young and from the slim

candlelight of late dinner

he became. 

                     Red, red the opened mouth,

shaped-valentine – laughing,

and then he came.



“1. Coming In” (from The Book of Isaac, Burning) was first published in The Journal, Spring, 2003.