You are never mentioned on Ararat
or elsewhere, but I know a woman’s hand
in salvation when I see it. Lately,
I’m torn between despair and ignorance.
I’m not a vegetarian, shop plastic,
use an air conditioner. Is this what happens
before it all goes fluvial? Do the selfish
grow self-conscious by the withering
begonias? Lately, I worry every black dress
will have to be worn to a funeral.
New York a bouillon, eroded filigree.
Anything but illness, I beg the plagues,
but shiny crows or nuclear rain.
Not a drop in London May through June.
I bask in the wilt by golden hour light.
Lately, only lately, it is late. Tucking
our families into the safeties of the past.
My children, will they exist by the time
it’s irreversible? Will they live
astonished at the thought of ice
not pulled from the mouth of a machine?
Which parent will be the one to break
the myth; the Arctic wasn’t Sisyphus’s
snowy hill. Noah’s wife, I am wringing
my hands not knowing how to know
and move forward. Was it you
who gathered flowers once the earth
had dried? How did you explain the light
to all the animals?
Copyright © 2019 by Maya C. Popa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
That streetlight looks like the slicked backbone
of a dead tree in the rain, its green lamp blazing
like the first neon fig glowing in the first garden
on a continent that split away from Africa
from which floated away Brazil. Why are we not
more amazed by the constellations, all those flung
stars held together by the thinnest filaments
of our evolved, image making brains. For instance,
here we are in the middle of another Autumn,
plummeting through a universe that made us
from its shattering and dust, stooping
now to pluck an orange leaf from the sidewalk,
a small veined hand we hold in an open palm
as we walk through the park on a weekend we
invented so we would have time to spare. Time,
another idea we devised so the days would have
an epilogue, precise, unwavering, a pendulum
strung above our heads. When was the sun
enough? The moon with its diminishing face?
The sea with its nets of fish? The meadow’s
yellow baskets of grain? If I was in charge
I’d say leave them there on their backs
in the grass, wondering, eating berries
and rolling toward each other’s naked bodies
for warmth, for something we’ve yet to name,
when the leaves were turning colors in their dying
and we didn’t know why, or that they would return,
bud and green. One of a billion
small miracles. This planet will again be stone.
Copyright © 2019 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Green spring grass on
the hills had cured
by June and by July
gone wooly and
brown, it crackled
underfoot, desiccated while
within the clamor of live
oaks, an infestation of
tiny larvae clung
to the underleaves,
veins. Their frass, that
fine dandruff of excrement
and boring dust, tinkled
as it dropped onto dead leaves
below the limbs. You
could hear it twenty
feet away, tinkling.
Across the valley, on
Sugarloaf Ridge, the full
moon showed up
like a girl doing cartwheels.
No one goes on living
the life that isn’t there.
Below a vast column of
smoke, heat, flame, and
wind, I rose, swaying
and tottering on my
erratic vortex, extemporizing
my own extreme weather, sucking up
acres of scorched
topsoil and spinning it
outward in a burning sleet
of filth and embers that
catapulted me forward
with my mouth open
in every direction at once. So
I came for you, churning, turning
the present into purgatory
because I need to turn
everything to tragedy before
I can see it, because
it must be
leavened with remorse
for the feeling to rise.
Copyright © Forrest Gander. Used with permission of the author.