No Encore


Edvard Munch, Around the Paraffin Lamp, 1883

by Betty Adcock

I’m just an assistant with the Vanishing Act.
My spangled wand points out the disappeared.
It’s only a poor thing made of words, and lacks
the illusive power to light the darkling year.

Not prophecy, not elegy, but fact:
the thing that’s gone is never coming back.

Late or soon a guttering silence will ring down
a curtain like woven smoke on thickening air.
The audience will strain to see what’s there,
the old magician nowhere to be found.

For now, I wear a costume and dance obliquely.
The applause you hear is not for me, its rabid sound
like angry rain—as one by one the known forms cease to be:
childhood, the farm, the river, forested ground;
the tiger and the condor, the whale, the honeybee;
the village, the book, the lantern. Then you. Then me.


About the Author

Betty Adcock is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Slantwise (LSU Press, 2008) and Intervale: New and Selected Poems (LSU, 2002), which won the Poets’ Prize and was a finalist for the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize. She has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes, the North Carolina Medal for Literature, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a 2002 Guggenheim Fellowship, among others.

Publication Rights

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2017 by Betty Adcock, “No Encore,” from Rough Fugue, (Louisiana State University Press, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Betty Adcock and the publisher.   Introduction copyright © 2022 by The Poetry Foundation.

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