Even this freckle testifies to the strength
of second thoughts. My family

is a poem, the clear expression of
mixed feelings, and your emergent

system at five years old fires
like the shoal of neon tetra kept

in the depths of a ten gallon
darkness. As for infinity, it’s there,

haggling with contradiction,
asking each question but one.

You will find for a while there
you held the exquisite to daylight

before setting it down on the baize,

Sometimes it will feel like
the entire body consists of flames;

and sometimes concrete;
sometimes collapsing like a waterfall

or steady as a lake of evening lapping,
the midges clouding the surface.

Sometimes it will feel like air
just before the air itself

turns to snow. The solution is
a solution, by which I mean

lots of things dissolving to one.


Copyright © 2019 by Nick Laird. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I grew up in County Tyrone, a segregated, violent society, and hoped that Northern Ireland would become more like the rest of the world. Instead the rest of the world became more like Northern Ireland. My own family is mixed and it can be difficult to find a fit for that, particularly now, and particularly here in America. But that’s all conjecture really: the poem says what it says and is a bit mysterious to me. (Also, I’d note the poem nicks and repurposes Auden’s definition of poetry, ‘the clear expression of mixed feelings.’)”
—Nick Laird