Kevin Prufer

Winner of the George Bogin Memorial Award in 2006

National Anthem


And the shopping center said, give me, give me.

And the moon turning on its pole said, I love you, you who have so much to give.

And you said, darling, if you could just wait in the car for ten minutes and I'll be right out—

And the sliding doors opened for you like a coat.

Then the car ticked like the contented in the catatonic snow

and the black boys at the bus stop laughed in their hoods until a bus dragged them

through the night and away—

And a woman paced beneath the store.

Sometimes, I can hear the nation speak through the accumulation of the suburbs—

Olive Garden and Exxon; Bed, Bath & Beyond, the stars that throw their dimes

around us all

until the eyes say Love and the streets say Yes! and the parking lot

fills with angels blowing past the lines of freezing cars.

You had been inside for longer than you said, and when you reemerged

I went to help you with the bags. I'm sorry, sorry—into the cold air—I couldn't help

What was the body but a vessel, and what was the store but another,

larger vessel? The keys sang in my numb fingers. The flag applauded in the wind.

And then I saw that you were smiling up at it.
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Marie Howe on Kevin Prufer

I kept coming back to look at these poems—the way you look at an accident on the road, craning your neck as you approach—until—passing the flashing lights—you see it's your car—your own car that's smashed, holding up traffic.

Kevin Prufer's got steady nerves—from deep inside here and now, from within the American Empire, he is listening to the memory of the future. He has courage and com- passion. And he places words so beautiful and accurate and terrifying along a line you can't help but read to the end. At the end I looked up and said one word: more.

I want to thank him, celebrate him, and ask him something. Can he find a way out of here? I want him to read these poems on Fox News and CNN. Can this be a poet who can write the sentence we are, as a people, on the verge of saying? Reading his poems, it feels on the verge of coming to mind

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