Published on Academy of American Poets (


I began to die, then. I think
I was asleep. Dreaming
of an afterlife that revised
my flesh into what
I had wanted. Why do
I think of Ronald Reagan
the way one recalls
vague nightmare:
the sick heart and terror
which is percussive.
Was this the year
I saw him at the airport.
Men grimly tested
my body for hidden death,
waving a wand up
and down. My left arm
healed wrongly
and it was surgery
that put it right. Look,
if you want, at
the pale stippling of scar,
there. Some nights I wake
and everything hurts
a little. It is
amazing how long
a ruined thing
will burn. In the night,
there are words,
though often I've denied
their shape. Their sound.
My soul: whatever
it sings it is singing.


Copyright © 2018 by Paul Guest. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I broke my neck in a bicycle wreck in 1986, and lately, I have been writing poems for each year since then. I mention Ronald Reagan and the airport because I saw him land in Air Force One, taxi up to a waiting stage festooned with flags and banners, and make some kind of speech to the gathered throng. It was exciting in an uncomplicated way: I was a kid and had no thoughts about arms dealing, or AIDS, or dementia. I remember the heat of the sun coming off the tarmac and Secret Service agents inspecting my wheelchair and then my young body as if it could be something dangerous.”
—Paul Guest


Paul Guest

Paul Guest is the author of Because Everything Is Terrible (Diode Editions, 2018).

Date Published: 2018-07-10

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