The Poetry Project


By Jo Stewart

Excerpts from Un-

the day un-left for good the moon was a young yolk


xxxun-furls against a tree.

xxxforest floor is soft, sinks.

xxxshadow drains from feet.

xxxtoo dark to see the mourning.

xxxnot too dark to radiate heat.

xxxthe high color of trembling.

xxxsleep’s blue haze seeks nothing but a roothold.

xxxtonight, un-resists gazing.

xxxun-is a child on the forest floor.

xxxwebbed with attachments.

xxxblack widows, black remoteness, family of widowers.

xxxsuch is the life of a prefix.

xxxborn an orphan to a mother.

xxxher meager appendage.

xxxtea cups sipping pupil orphans.

xxxun-shimmers on the edge of separateness.

xxxa stubborn syntactic covetousness.

xxxappears as hazy family in black dress.

xxxorphan glances scatter, seek broad flesh chest.

xxxa friendly face.


“this is the first field, the first field is an enclosed field, a stone wall encloses the field, barbed wire encloses the field, a young shrub encloses the field, from this field it is impossible to turn back, it is a man-made field and to turn your back is to face the field’s enclosure, to turn your back is to face a man-made field, though there are no more men in this field, the men abandoned the field, the reason should be obvious; the first field isn’t necessarily the “beginning” field, neither is it the “winning” field, nor the “leading” field, in fact, there are many fields that came before the first field;

“wherever men went, they called where they were the “first” field, they enclosed the field, they walked along the length of the enclosure, the men did this one by one and the men did this in pairs, the reason should be obvious; after some time the first field eroded, after some time the first field exposed bare outcroppings of rock, after some time the men gathered in the center of the field, the men held each other’s hands, faces, the men held each other in agreement, the men decided to leave the field, but of course it is impossible to turn back, in other words, the men aren’t necessarily “gone,” neither are they “absent,” the men simply abandoned the field;

“the first field which is also an abandoned field continues to be enclosed, to be enclosed is also to say surrounded, it is impossible to reverse direction once surrounded, hence, there is only one direction in a man-made field, to move backward or forward is to travel in the same direction, to approach the stone wall, to approach the barbed wire, to approach the young shrub that is no longer young or tidy but ragged and densely contorted is to move in the only possible direction; it does not matter to the enclosed field whether one is approaching with their front or back, whether one is casual or afraid, whether one is sleepless or responsible, whether one is skilled or productive, whether one is wet or hungry, whether one is laughing;

“to approach the barrier is the only possible direction in the first field, it is better to keep in mind that the barrier is man-made while one is approaching, it is helpful to consider the obvious: there are limits that are man-made and there are limits that are not, for example; there are men who built this barrier and, to some degree, one belongs to them; according to these men, to whom to some degree one belongs, this is a barrier beyond which something ceases to be possible; to cross into a barrier is to cross into what binds it; to cross, yes to cross could mean encounter, am I to leave the field as the men did, to cross-over could also mean to die, interchange, or even recombine, did the men die, to say they are dead is somewhat accurate;

and the barrier, of what is it constituted, to say of men is to state the obvious, don’t you know them, I do, as you said it seems I did or do belong to them as a shadow does, to leave is to remain in the same place or condition, it is not what you imagine to be rid of them, but to cross, yes, to cross is to encounter my condition, obliquely, an angle is the only sensible direction in the first field, and then, I imagine the shrub is not impenetrable, which is to say you haven’t been, rather thick-headed, aren’t you, do not expect the wood to be as friendly or informative, what of yourself, I am a man-made field and you, my dear, are frightfully forgetful, the first field, quiet right, the first field, which is to say, the abandoned field;

field of clover, field of hedges, field of stones, field of cotton, field of corn, dew field, ploughed field, winding field, field of sugar-cane, fertile field, enclosed field, uncultivated field, field of ripened melons, field of ponderous cattle, newly discovered field, field of coal, field of gold, productive field, field of precious metal, oil field, airfield, open field, the desert fields of the sultry equator are not barriers to his enterprising disposition, field lark, field mouse, field sparrow, field spider, field tortoise, field briar, field chickweed, field elm, field mint, field mushroom, field poppy, field of chicken coops, field of laborers, field forget-me-not, She was bonny once, like a flower of the field, battlefield, master of the field, command of the field, field of conflict, king’s field, gained the field, members of the field, lost the field, hard-fought field, field of opportunities, field of play, field of interest, I yearn to leave the field, field of study, field of celestial light, field of cocker spaniels, field for political maneuver, field a ball, field a question, botanist in the field, field investigation, field recording, field survey, field of honor, field crop, field of order, field of woes, field of ice floes, field of data, archeologist in the field, sociologist in the field, always men in the field in readiness, field of force, field of energy, magnetic field, dynamic field of an individual, field of experience, field fence, field gate, field road, field wall, field tent, She saw with throbbing pains, the weary bondmen driven afield, in manacles and chains, field plot, field slave, field law, field holler, field hand, field gunner, field of ocean, field of sails, field of sea, field wife, field woman, field of kelp, field of relation, field pastime, search afield for employment, drill afield for water, infinitely afield, field of sustenance, field of lazy Susan’s, field of purchasing and supply management, field of microplastics, compassion distinguishes us from the beasts of the field, field of buried relics, field of remains, field of antiquities, field of thanatology, marine field, slippery field, submerged field, multidisciplinary field, rotting field, roiling field, rioting field, field of the remote past, afield: there’s a miracle, a lone bird singing, field of vision, field of a lens, field of perilous crossings, field of rippling skirts, field of needling grasses, field of whimpering ghouls, shots fired in a field, fluttering heart in a field, unendurable field, callous field, laughing field, metaphorical field, field the truth, field telephone calls, field unarmed troops, field an amateur, field a nominee, metaphysical field, field of aura, field of odor, field of urgent insects, field of tempestuous wind, professional field of underwater kissing, professional field of dispassionate fucking, professional field of fictional auto-biography, professional field of helpless helping, professional field of fight-flight-freeze, professional field of retired weight-lifting, professional field of slipping poison to the enemy, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again, sow the field with salt, sow the field with wheat, sow the field with deterioration, sow the field with the fruits of increase, sow the field with tongues, sow the field with feet, sow the field with dawn, sow the field with hair strewn seeds, sow the field with gruesome meat, sow the field with shock, sow the field with knives, sow the field with prayerful knees, sow the field with flame, sow the field with committees, sow the field with Saturday night, sow the field with mercury, sow the field with fathomless poetry, sow the field with liabilities, enriched by natural resources and ill-fated yellow lilies, sow the field with interpretation for this is a field of plenty, a field of pink-rimmed eyelids, a field of dashing commuters, a field of unperturbed woodchucks, a field of enigmatic stamp collectors, a field of rollicking ancestors, a field of unmarked police cruisers, a field of unelectable priests, a field of unsuspecting illnesses, a field of unmistakable fathers, a field of unrelated cousins, a field of unruly tanks, a field of unfeeling philosophy, a field of unimpressive crotches, a field of unfurrowing brows, a field of unheard footfalls, And what if I did see un, Master? replied a field of scented petals, She was romancing a tree, decried a field of clanging bluebells, She was mourning her undead mother, sobbed a field of dammed up rivers, She was stammering on her knees, chirped a field of dabbling waterfowl, Go head and tell un I’m not easily deceived, hissed Master of the field, nodding and pushing into trees.



  1. “…the desert fields of the sultry equator, are not barriers to his enterprising disposition” is from the Worcester Magazine and Historical Journal, 1825.
  2. “She was bonny once, like a flower of the field” is from Beckett’s Endgame, 1958.
  3. “I yearn to leave the field” is from James E. McGirt’s poem “I Yearn to Leave the Field” in Some Simple Songs, 1901.
  4. “She saw with throbbing pains, the weary bondmen driven afield, in manacles and chains” is from George Hannibal Temple’s poem “In Memory of Harriet Beecher Stowe” in The Epic of Columbus’ Bell and Other Poems, 1900.
  5. “infinitely afield” is from Nathaniel Mackey’s poem “Song of the Andoumboulou: 44” in Splay Anthem, 2006.
  6. “compassion distinguishes us from the beasts of the field” is from The Age newspaper (Melbourne) (Metro section), July 15, 2008.
  7. “afield: there’s a miracle, a lone bird singing” is from Rita Dove’s poem “Her Island” in Mother Love, 1995.
  8. “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again” is from Matthew 13:44 in New International Version, 1973.

To read more from Jo Stewart, please visit our neighbors, Danspace Project, where Stewart’s “The Sky was Red,” a performance score to document Jasmine Hearn’s live performance, Pleasure Memory, is available to read or listen to.

#263 — Winter 2021