The heat rises in distorted gold
              waves around fire
                            but without fire,
              shimmering, twisting

anything seen through it.
              The heat rises, rasping
                            the air it rises through,
              scuffing the surface,

if the air has a surface.
              The tall summer
                            field is the keeper
              of secrets. Lie down

and forget your body, forgive
              your body its bad cradle,
                            its brokenness.
              Lie down and listen

to the rasp, to heat sweep
              the pale, dry grass as if
                            it were your own
              breathing, as if the field

you’ve pressed your shape into
              is a broom in reverse,
                            a broom being
              swept by the wind.


Copyright © 2017 by Maggie Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘Rasp’ began as an attempt to articulate a sensory experience: the combination of the blur of heat in the air and the sound of wind moving through—across?—tall, dry grass. As I wrote, it struck me that the dry summer fields are broom-like, the grass wheat-colored and papery, so there’s a play on the idea of ‘windswept.’ The air seems to have so much body and texture in the heat, as if it has a surface that can be seen, felt, even broken.”
—Maggie Smith