Contemplation on Verbs – a poem by Stapleton Nash

Contemplation on Verbs

What is the difference between raise and rise?
Another teacher asked me as we bent over the compositions.
It caught me by surprise.
Raise, raised— a student raises their hand.
Regular, that. But rise, uncommon, nearly
The same, yet a hand is not risen.
Where does the irregularity come from?

I say, rise seems reserved for grander things:
The sun rises, the dead rise.
Hands are raised, as are tariffs.
Only on the way home, walking in the dark alleys,
Between barred windows, parked scooters with mufflers
Still red-hot, cats scampering away,
A grandmother washing a fish in a bucket,
I realized the real answer to her question,
And to mine—

What makes it grand?
What makes it irregular?
What sets it apart?
All day long we endeavour to raise things,
But that which rises, lifts itself.

The sky had no stars in it,
And eagerly I closed my eyes upon that blankness,
Secure to know that the sun and the dead
Don’t need any help from me to do what they will.


Stapleton Nash  was born and raised on Vancouver Island, where she grew up swimming, beach-combing, and writing letters to imaginary mermaid friends. Since then, she has lived in Montreal, where she studied literature, and more recently has been teaching English to children just outside of Taipei. She has had poems published in NewMag and The Mark

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