Published on Academy of American Poets (

Of Color of Landscape of Tenuous Rope


I’ve pulled from my throat birdsong like tin-
sheeted lullaby [its vicious cold        its hoax of wings]
the rest of us forest folk       dark angels chafing rabbits-
foot for luck     thrum-necked     wear the face of
nothing       we’ve changed       the Zodiac & I
have refused a little planet little sum for struggle & sailed
ourselves summerlong & arbitrary as a moon grave
across a vastness        [we’ve left the child-
ren]      Named the place penni-
less motherhood      Named the place country
of mothers      Named the place anywhere but death by self-


infliction is a god of many faces      many nothings     
I’m afraid I’ll never be whole     I’m afraid
the rope from the hardware store [screws for nails]
will teach itself to knot      I’ve looked up noose I’ve
learned to twine but these babies now
halfway pruned through the clean bathwater of childhood
I promised a god I would take to the ledge
& show the pinstripes the pinkening strobe-
lights maybe angels chiseled at creation
into the rock [around my neck] the rock in the river
I would never let them see        I would never let them


break & spend a whole life backing away from that slip—
Let us fly & believe [in the wreck] their perfect hope-
sealed bodies the only parachutes we need


Copyright © 2019 by Jenn Givhan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I’d become a single mama when I wrote this poem, and on the radio as I drove, sobbing, toward any ledge in New Mexico while my children were safe at school, came the pop song I now sing on repeat with my babes: Rockabye baby, don’t you cry (I’m gonna rock you)… It felt like a sign, dug deep, and as I wound off-road through the dirt and rocks, I recalled the time we took the kids to the Grand Canyon. They were maybe three and six, and they said, in muted tones, from their stroller at the chain-linked edge: Is this it? They’d expected a ferris wheel, I think. Fireworks. I’m determined to hold on, for every day, for the grandest canyon or the most ordinary of moments—with everything in me, I’ll get my children to the other side.”
—Jenn Givhan


Jenn Givhan

Jenn Givhan is the author of Rosa’s Einstein (University of Arizona Press, 2019).

Date Published: 2019-03-15

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