I watched my old life go by like television.

Slopes of grass whipping against bright blue skies,

Objects some called tools 

And others, totems.

A woodpile, a sheepskin, 

Garlic curing from the rafters;

A river’s loose slaps upon slabs of warm rock.

“Secret spot” read the caption disseminated 

Online. Coy copy. Cool 

Said the flatlanders 

Whose ranks I’d effectively joined.

While those I left drifted closer to one another 

Or God, to the sources 

Of life itself: children and dirt. Unkept

By the present tense, I was distant 

In my watching,

An existence I too tendered stagily 

As free. Like television, 

I was buying

Whatever was for sale

As the appraisers said You don’t seem like you’re from there

But I simmered in the grid

Of there’s off-the-grid life: the flowing virtue 

Of verdant surfaces, 

The cemented-down conclusion 

That meaning must be near.

The siren song soft focus of my own 

Slushy memories reenacted 

By someone else.

Good enough I brushed their expiration from my view.

I watched the endless plot 

Of daily benedictions over the land.

The land—


Any of you could feel 

You were alive in its popular image.

Copyright © 2021 by Hanae Jonas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.