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.”

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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:

 

Love.

 

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