The Aphelion Elegies / John Blair


The Aphelion Elegies

poems by

John Blair

ISBN: 978-1-59948-942-1, ~72 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Projected Release Date: January/February, 2023

An Advance Sale Discount price of $8.50 (+ shipping) is available HERE prior to press time. This price is not available anywhere else or by check. The check price is $12.50/book (which includes shipping) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 

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John Blair has published six books, most recently Playful Song Called Beautiful (University of Iowa Press, 2016) as well as poems & stories in The Colorado Review, Poetry, The Sewanee Review, The Antioch Review, New Letters, and elsewhere. He is the director of the undergraduate creative writing program at Texas State University.

Wry, learned, and irresistibly musical, John Blair’s poems remind me of the pleasure of melancholy and the satisfaction of endings. Looking to writers of the past (Seneca, Shakespeare, and Nabokov, among others) to navigate not only an uncertain present but also a frightening future, this book meditates on the precarious self that, on any given day, we think we are. The poems dwell on loss and last things, the “green depths where the sunlight / fades in such slow degrees/ you have to close your eyes to even know it’s gone.” –Cecily Parks


John Blair’s new poems are marvels of concision and sonic complexity. Lyrical and erudite, they meditate on the irretrievable past, the certainties of mortality, and the force with which careful thought and deep feeling render art from the world. “A woodpecker hammers away // at the tree of life,” he writes, “which is only the dead / oak at the edge of your yard / opening peepholes to the next world.” These are rich and beautiful poems by a poet attuned to the wonders around him. ~Kevin Prufer


The Aphelion Elegies ponders the eternal desire for “one compelling story” that will unburden us at last of our fears the world doesn’t make sense, even as we confront all that we have forgotten or perhaps only imagined. Nevertheless, John Blair’s wide-ranging poems seem to find hope in language itself – the sound and shapes of words, the physicality of rhythm, the intricate map-work of syntax. In this dazzling collection, Blair shows us how the very act of writing out our “green depths where the sunlight / fades in such slow degrees” might just sustain us. ~Steve Wilson, author of The Reaches and Complicity


The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!” ~Frederick Nietzsche, The Gay Science


We’ve all been there before, hiding in drapes
and corners, seeing mice that don’t see us

or cardinals spurting across fields creped
with hills and vanishing into brightness

and perspective. Because there is no end
to ending ever, and from the endless

benign incarnations of spiders grim
in the mossy groins of oak trees to this

uneasy life lived less calm than willing,
less reconciled than lost, we never stop

but stutter through our follies singing
a little softly to ourselves, roof top,

backdrop, closed shop, filling every open
with gone, every joyful with come again.





We owe this life nothing
except suffering and the peculiar
smell of inevitability our childhoods
twisty as the spiral of the Turk’s

Caps that start to bloom just as the trees
begin to give up their leaves like bad
paper & obligation       hard little thumbs jabbed
pink into the sky’s last good eye

and all that debt coming due when it
comes due like a moan into someone
else’s open mouth and here’s the thing: we
owe this life everything.





You don’t want any more the spurious
heights of the mountains      the cloud-
misty domains of proud     but that house

apparently abandoned in mid-gasp
and settled peak to peak into the low spaces
that crouch inside of falling       where a pitch

becomes a sag becomes a reckoning
in a field of motes like pixels      that half-
toned pointillism of any given moment

in any given flow towards a cliff’s edge
of entropy       that is now and always
the l’appel du vide of your fly-by longing

compelled as it is by anywhere
the sun might shine where a roof had
for so long kept it       amnesiac      out

where the winds play curled strips
of tin like mouth harps      and among
rotten beams weeds grow      stunted

and yellow      half the world falling
as worlds will       half the world struggling
resentfully to rise.





The solar constant by which
our days and our discontents
are warmed      averages 1367 watts
per square meter of skin and earth
and lumined seas      though

this value varies slightly as we
(the people      the mountains
the everything      of us) are flung
oblong in our orbit between aphelion
and perihelion      making the summer

linger three days longer than the winter
can manage      which is by coincidence
the storied difference between dead
and risen      that makes a passion
become a flood of permissible things

so that it’s hard to know what
to ignore      what to remember      even
as we stay behind because we’re left
behind      like the chaff storm
of rubble scattered

by the asteroid 3200 Phaethon
as it rises and falls through
a wildly elongated orbit that swings it
at perihelion so close to the sun
that it cracks like a ball of mud

and scatters crumbs of rock
and ice      before it swings back
wailing quietly & only to itself
into the far reaches of aphelion
through which      during the season

of Advent      the driven ship of the Earth
sails towards meaning      so that stars
streak yellow and countless across the sky
a burning grit of things that unlike us
return every year & forever to fall among
our silent holy nights.

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