Our New Given

By on Apr 29, 2013 in Poetry

Couple talking at outdoor cafe, pixelated with color distortion


For Paul and Maxine

It is the precise
moment between the given
and the unknowable—
the slip of time that, like an island,
juts into view, announcing its strangeness
before we know what is to come.

We sit, the four of us at a table
in a crowded restaurant on a clear spring
day and in the pause
before the words tumble fast from my friend’s mouth,
I feel a sudden pull toward
an inevitability that must be someone else’s, and yet
is not.

The brief silence before words
is when the true knowing occurs—
amid the gleam of sunlight on silverware,
the white of the starched tablecloth,
a worry intrudes
like the stealth slide of something in the grass,
a subtle dawning of knowledge that gains
ground and changes everything.

The calm before the storm
is not really calm at all, but is filled with a stirring,
a gathering force
that is its own dread.
And so, when the words do come
on that plain blue day,
and our lives are no longer what we thought they would be,
the folly of certainty
looms large
in our new given of each tiny unknown.


Mark Evan Chimsky's poetry and essays have appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Xanadu, Mississippi Review, The Cincinnati Judaica Review, and The Three Rivers Poetry Journal. In addition, he has received the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award as New/Emerging Poet. As a professional editor, Mark has worked with Johnny Cash, Susie Bright, Robert Coles, and Arthur Hertzberg. He has compiled a number of nonfiction anthologies, including Creating a Life You'll Love, which received the silver in the self-help category in ForeWord's 2009 Book of the Year Awards.


  1. Gorgeous poem. I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until it ended.

  2. what a beautiful tribute to the twin realms: seen and unseen…
    and to their mediators: us –
    a toast to that which gives one pause
    that is not always “pause that refreshes”

    a tribute that gives life
    support and wands
    attention’s ballroom gown and “carte d’entrée”
    to entities – realities
    cinderellad from the dance of consciousness