for Terry Tempest Williams

I didn’t love

That I had this


Toward melody

Or the appetite for drama

Always obvious

In my thinking

& in everything

I did. I wasn’t TV

Though I watched myself

Sometimes passively

As though brained or

Bludgeoned out of the fullness

Of my own reality. I felt

I had to respect what seduced me

Even if stupidly—even when it made

Me stupid—or meant I was—

Making of my mind a begging bowl

Laying myself waste for the devil

Making an innocent victim of the child within

So ferociously did I fear

Something adult, like sovereignty

Survival was a big-


Blanket. Not wet

But scented

With the antiseptics

Of the factory

It would take days

To air out, get it to resemble

The picture of something homey

And grandmother-made

I know what it’s like to pay

Money for such.

The three-dimensional

Image of things. To find

Them feeling hollow and smelling

Wrong. I know what it’s like.

The imitation of life.

I almost know what it means.

I disciplined my own form and the thinking

Within me. That may not be a religion

But it is grim theology.

The more muscle I had the better

I felt I could contain and conduct

The sorrow within. The smoother

Ran my blood and lymph.

My body dismayed me and I hated,

Adored it. Recurrent dreams

Of defective dolls kept coming back

To warn me. You are not a thing.

You are not the object against which forces

Tilt that you cannot control.

You are the entire subject of the world.

Tears rolled down a cheek of stone

My friend Terry writes about water

And land, mother and brother

Like a singer. I once despaired

To her that the only endangered

Species I had managed to speak

On behalf of up to that moment

Was myself. This seemed squalid

And narrow to me. Terry said it was real

Territory. I blinked melancholy

Into the seething night

Like a spotted owl in the eye

Of a security camera

Black and white bird without

Offspring or prey. My body

Is filled with plastic

I left my mother to die

To write these lines

You will parry that such is a false

Economy. But so

Are all the other ones we live by

Copyright © 2023 by Ariana Reines. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 21, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.