Anaphora is the term for the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases. Whether you are familiar with the term or not, we all know anaphora. We hear such repetition in religious texts, political speeches and poems, too.

In this week’s poem, Jeffrey Thomson uses anaphora to great effect – his repetition of “under” and the feeling that repetition implies is the engine pushing the poem forward. It allows the speaker to link together seemingly everything – the sky, his lover’s eyes, flowers, a tragedy, etc. In the universe of this poem, it’s all connected.

Thomson teaches writing and literature at the University of Maine at Farmington and his latest book of poems, his fifth, is “The Belfast Notebooks” (Salmon Poetry, 2017).

Underwhelmed

By Jeffrey Thomson

Under the catastrophic dark,

the comet splintering the sky

with its ancient grief,

under the splay-handed palms,

under drinks glowering dark in

globes of glass, under the tender

humidity, the phosphorescent surf,

under the calls of nightjars

chuckling up from the ground,

under the ticking aloe under the moon’s

absence, under, under, under.

Under the blinking stripes jets

write across the sky, under

stillness, the cabin pressure holding

steady, under the coned light

blanking out pages of gloss, under

the plunge of my love’s hair, under

her sadness and her eyes

startling as stars, under our lives,

the miscarried child left in the bowl,

underground, underwater, understory,

under the bougainvillea’s whorish musk,

under the coral’s forest of horn, under

God, undertow, underdog, under

everything there is a season,

under the absence of twilight,

under the beach’s grittle and bone,

under the words, startle, startle,

under the luxury of the table

so whitely laid, under

the candle’s light shaped

like a hanging blade, we tear

apart the body of the fish and leave

glistening ladders of bone.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2013 Jeffrey Thomson. It appeared in Birdwatching in Wartime (Carnegie Mellon, 2013) and appears here by permission of the author.