Still they ask in podcast
and electronic ink: How are you doing?

And they keep you in their hearts, pump you
to their minds, circulate you unimagined.

Take all the space you need, they say, 
empathy loves the damaged.

You offer no solutions. Only clarity
they don’t believe, only they
get to tell the future
what to be.

Then they pump you
into their viscera, and feel you
bilious, ineffable, cast iron, butterfly.

Their questions like a shovel
that doesn’t know what earth is,
but digging anyway.

They hope you would say:
“I am multigenerational
and can fracture natural
bonds in my DNA,”

for this they can sell
to a tycoon press, a Carnegie
of thought dissemination.

And your answer comes:
“Things are a seasickness
and no land in sight.

Your peeping is no witness.”

Copyright © 2024 by Fady Joudah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 2, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

at the Sipsey River

make small steps.
in this wild place
there are signs of life
everywhere.
sharp spaces, too:
the slip of a rain-glazed rock
against my searching feet.
small steps, like prayers—
each one a hope exhaled
into the trees. please,
let me enter. please, let me
leave whole.
there are, too, the tiny sounds
of faraway birds. the safety
in their promise of song.
the puddle forming, finally,
after summer rain.
the golden butterfly
against the cave-dark.
maybe there are angels here, too— 
what else can i call the crown of light 
atop the leaves?
what else can i call
my footsteps forward,
small, small, sure?

From You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World (Milkweed Editions, 2024), edited by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2024 Milkweed Editions and the Library of Congress. Used with the permission of the author. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.