1. Arnold, Elizabeth

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It's been known a long time that malignant cells can be engendered


by the damage minute particles inflict


as they pass through the body. Earth passing through dead space. Augustine


amid anarchy. Nijinsky saying just


before he veered wide of his barely ordered mind, stopped dancing:


"Let this be the body through which World War I passed."


Elizabeth Arnold is a poet and assistant professor of English at the University of Maryland in College Park. Her first book, The Reef (University of Chicago Press, Phoenix Poets series, 1999), articulates her struggle with cancer. In 2002 she won a Whiting Writer's Award. This poem is from "Civilization," a work in progress.


About this poem, Arnold says it "is a series of perceptions skipping like a rock off water, off of my experience of the life-threatening side effects of radiation treatment for Hodgkin disease. Vaslav Nijinsky was a Russian dancer who rejected conventional ballet for a freer, more expressive form; he danced for the last time in 1919 and was institutionalized for schizophrenia soon after. St. Augustine, the Christian thinker who authored The Confessions, led a church in Northern Africa at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire."