This week, as the last in this spring’s series of Deep Water guest editors, Arisa White shares a poem by Éireann Lorsung. White is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Colby College and a Cave Canem fellow. She is the author of “Who’s Your Daddy,” co-editor of “Home Is Where You Queer Your Heart” and co-author of “Biddy Mason Speaks Up,” winner of the 2020 Maine Literary Award for Young People’s Literature. She serves on the board of directors for Foglifter and Nomadic Press and is a community advisory board member for Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance.

White writes: Éireann Lorsung’s “The Century” confronts the greatest atrocities of the 20th century. It reckons with the quotidian acts of violence that uphold genocide and cultures of white supremacy, and Lorsung does this using a familiar formalism, experimental structures and reflective modes of voice capable of accessing those everyday silences that operate internally and publicly. These poems chart those “rhetorical and logical moves—/ often moves of omission—that [form] that kind of subject [we are].”

“The Century” is Éireann Lorsung’s third book, which is a finalist for the 2021 Maine Literary Award in Poetry. A visual artist and educator as well, Lorsung is currently working on a collection of essays about the ongoing work and pleasure of making a house, a life, and an art; and a series of poems that respond to the years she lived in rural Belgium.

Big questions

By Éireann Lorsung


Why this insistence on the century?

Why keep returning to fields where human beings died?



It should be enough to watch the sulphur lights turn on and off through the window.

Down the street, lights go on in houses too.



But I know the century was everywhere.

Every house has hands, every hand is a flower, every flower marks a grave,

every grave is five graves.

All those everyones, everywhere: always, even now.



How is this day different from any other?

The fields have been moved in hopes that no one will see them.


Some people are seeing the fields, of course, but the idea is not to see them.

Watch the orange lights fade on against the darkening sky.

The far-off people in the fields move on, in their slow dresses.



The century watches them.

In the blue darkness we have been imagining the century far away.



The century is among us now. It moves with a force we can barely estimate.

This hand of the century touches the people in the fields.



No place is too far away, it says.


Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Big questions” is from “The Century” by Éireann Lorsung (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2020). Copyright © 2020 by Éireann Lorsung. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: