Christopher Bursk

1978 Poet Laureate

Chris Bursk, recipient of NEA, Guggenheim, and Pew Fellowships, is the author of thirteen books, including Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press) Cell Count with Texas Tech University Press, Ovid at Fifteen from New Issues Press (winner of the Green Rose Prize), The Improbable Swervings of Atoms from University of Pittsburgh Press (winner of Donald Hall Prize in Poetry from AWP and the Milton Kessler Prize), and The First Inhabitants of Arcadia from the University of Arkansas Press (winner of the Patterson Prize). In addition to having worked as a volunteer in the corrections system, with those on probation and parole, he teaches at Bucks County Community College. His poems have earned the Another Chicago Magazine Award, the 49th Parallel Award from Bellingham Review, the New Letters Prize in Poetry and the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. He is most importantly the grandfather of six.

Choose One or the Other, Says the Light

In the light this remains this and that remains that
but at night nothing’s quite the same

and nothing’s all that different.
What if you had to live your days

in the dark? asks the light, assuming
it’s got so much more to offer.

Choose both, says the dark,
It doesn’t get impatient

if it takes a while for your eyes to adjust.
As a boy I stayed outside

till dusk seeped into my bones
and gradually I stooped over

from shadows weighing down my back,
a burden I carried upstairs

where I’d delay turning on lights
till I heard someone coming –

my mother? my brother? – and I pretended
to be doing what a normal kid did

at 5 p.m. – math, social studies –
though this was my real homework:

sitting in the dark,
letting it teach me as much as it could.