The Faces of Men
the Light of the Sun
12 February 1978
This is my shortest poem if you don’t count the title. If you include the title—and why wouldn’t you?—the shortest poem was a nine word haiku—my only haiku—written in 2008. I’ve never been the most loquacious of poets but even by my standards this is short and yet after all these years it still satisfies me. I don’t feel anything more needs to be said. The only changes I’d make would be to get rid of the capitals on ‘light’ and ‘sun’ but that’s what I was doing then and so they stay.
Whenever I think of this poem I imagine one of those motivation posters so popular in the Soviet Union and China where everyone is happy and healthy and smiling at something funny that’s happening out of our field of vision. It’s not meant to be a political poem. It’s actually about mortality, my version of Pozzo’s “They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.”