Joel Faflak is a Professor of English and Theory in the Department of English and Writing Studies at Western University, where he was inaugural Director of the School for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Humanities.
He is author of Romantic Psychoanalysis (2008), co-author of Revelation and Knowledge (Toronto), editor of De Quincey’s Confessions (2009), and editor or co-editor of ten volumes, including The Handbook to Romanticism Studies (2012), The Public Intellectual and the Culture of Hope (2013), Romanticism and the Emotions (2014), and Marking Time (2017).
Former North American Editor (Romanticism) for Literature Compass, he is now co-editor of Palgrave Studies in Affect Theory and Literary Criticism, and is working on two books: “Romantic Psychiatry: The Psychopathology of Happiness” and “Get Happy! Utopianism and the American Film Musical.”
The World in Small
It makes little sense
That death should cast the world in small:
A simple fall on the gravel at supper
A sideways glance at the fence posts
The wind that survives
With no trees to hear it.
The pine box, the quilted blanket
A master broken by sorrow.
We yearn for the lucid every day
We reach our arms toward the sky
And call for reason
To drop like golden apples from the sun.
You simply fell.
Your heart gave out, that's all.
What could be more crystalline?
So what was your last moment
But the genie catching his breath
Before we named our wishes.
The slender pause while I cut my pork chop
And sipped my wine
And all went quiet,
As surely as a moon
Falling to the ocean's bottom
Where it shimmers
Among the sea grass and mussels.
The English Garden
They pin wings on little boys
And hoist them on top of capitols,
Like gold cupids.
There they sit: naked and neglected.
This is called fate.
God knows why.
Birds flying overhead
Will make a dog senseless
For steadfast ground,
All motion fixed in one spot.
This is called "faith in suspended flight."
God knows why.
Patrol dogs at Dachau chased drifting ash
Like children catching snowflakes on their tongues.
Danger made them nervous,
jumping at the barbed wire
stretched along the horizon.
If the howling didn't stop
the tower guards shot them mid-air.
They dropped beside the Jews, and gypsies, and faggots.
The guards would point and laugh.
When we are on our knees
and God cowers in the looking glass,
sometimes only I can hear the cries.
Apparitions cannot startle me.
I am already a phantom,
Earthbound and bleeding.
The river wears a hole in my heart
Like water on a stone old as Heraclitus.
For I have been to The English Garden
Hunting shades and half-shades.
I know the bullet's freedom
To meet what it kills.
If we seemed startled by fire,
It's because we yearn
To fly above the herd.
But ours is a time of scattered atoms,
A random syntax science cannot guess.
We must learn to be happy in shadows.
Only God sees us.
The Company of Strangers
This Sunday afternoon
I stared at a silver bowl
The size of a human heart
Big as my fist
Big enough to hold two plums,
Your mother's wedding ring,
And the keys to our SUV.
I stared like a warrior,
A monk, a pilgrim
Impatient, angry, dumb.
I stared in shame,
As if watching my sister undress
Behind the closet door.
I wanted to alchemize the silver
Into a heartbeat or some tidal force
That would drown the traders and politicians,
The schools and temples and clinics and mosques
And all the things I will never understand.
But the bowl required nothing,
Like some blind oracle
Listening to nightingales
While I drown in the shoals
With the bits of glass
And plastic straws.
No more wind to stir
The red silk scarf
Hanging from our mirror,
The one you bought at Harrods
That afternoon we walked to the Tate Britain.
I stared while the sun
Passed behind the tamaracks
In the neighbour's back yard.
I could see the dust
Settled on our dining room table,
And I used my finger to write one word: