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Five Penances: Penance IV

TFTL Lisa Russ Spaar headshot

Lisa Russ Spaar is a Professor of English and Creative Writing in UVA's Department of English in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Professor Spaar's poetry collections include Vanitas, RoughSatin Cash; and Blue Venus. Her recent novel is Paradise Close. She has edited several anthologies and books of essays, including the recent Monticello in Mind: Fifty Contemporary Poems on Jefferson. Her most recent collection of poetry is entitled, Madrigalia:  New & Selected Poems. Professor Spaar is pairing her five-part series with her former UVA art professor, Richard Crozier.



Five Penances: Penance IV


Penance IV


What’s the penalty

for such a day, spent high


on a crop of stone

overlooking the world’s theater?


Even the sky is bright

with the rub of Paradise,


a spectacle below us:

all ransacked clouds and birds


on invisible trellises,

blue shadows roping the valley,


pewter sutures

of river and Interstate,


and sun abstracting the palisades

with pastel bombs of pear and dogwood,


the maple’s scarlet wattage,

forsythia’s lemon ice,


and my hand at your mouth,

its wet promise—


this makes me feel primitive

banishing dread and winter’s drama.


Perhaps the ransom

is God’s to pay, for once,


so we, who have so many

other debts,


can have these hours

for free, night and return


delayed by upheld arms,

hostage and blooming.


©  Lisa Russ Spaar

From Blue Venus (Persea Books, 2004)


TFTL Penance IV horizontal
Oil on Panel by Richard Crozier, Professor Emeritus,
Department of Art in UVA's College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences