He said I must pay special attention in cars. He wasn’t, he assured me, saying that I’d be in an accident but that for two weeks some particular caution was in order, &, he said, all I really needed to do was throw the white light of Alma around any car I entered & then I’d be fine. & when I asked about Alma, he said, Oh, come on, you know Alma well. You two were together first in Egypt & then at Stonehenge, & I nodded though I’ve never been— in this life at least—to Stonehenge; then I said, Shouldn’t I always throw the white light of Alma around a car? & when he said, Well, it wouldn’t hurt, I said, What about around planes, houses? What if I throw the white light of Alma around anyone who might need protection from the reckless speed of driving or the reckless swerve & skid of the world? & the psychic opened his hands & shrugged up his shoulders. So despite your doubt or mine as to why I’d gone there, to a psychic, in—I kid you not—a town of psychics—in the first place, right now, as you read this, let me throw the white light of Alma around you & everyone you pass close to today, beloved or stranger, the grocer, the bus driver, the boy on his longboard, the lady you stand silent beside in the elevator, & also I am throwing it around anyone they care about anywhere in the spin of the world, because, we can agree that these days, everywhere, particular caution is in order &, even if unverifiable, the light of my dear sister Alma, couldn’t hurt.
Copyright © 2019 by Victoria Redel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“Over the years I’ve had the chance to speak with a couple of psychics and, despite my skepticism, I’ve felt less lonely at the possibility of connections through time past, present and future. I wanted this poem to start with a singular instance of danger where any of us might welcome help and extend the possibilities, a kind of dandelion puff wafting seeds that ease suffering. A small chaos theory of goodness. More and more I want the action of a poem to be a spell of protection, a brief shelter for others I create by shaping language.”
Victoria Redel was born in New York City on April 9, 1959, a first-generation American of Belgian, Egyptian, Polish, Romanian, and Russian descent. Redel grew up in Scarsdale, New York, and later attended Dartmouth College, where she graduated with a degree in visual arts in 1980. She worked as an addiction counselor in hospitals in Greenfield and Concord, Massachusetts, before she returned to New York City to pursue her MFA in poetry at Columbia University.
Redel is the author of three poetry collections: Woman Without Umbrella (Four Way Books, 2012), Swoon (University of Chicago Press, 2003), and Already the World (Kent State University Press, 1995). She is also the author of four books of fiction, including the award-winning novel Loverboy (Graywolf Press, 2001), which was adapted into a feature film in 2005.
In her review of Woman Without Umbrella, Carolyn Forché writes, “Woman Without Umbrella braves the perilous world of the present in allegorical lyrics of unexpected love, wild survival, diasporic estrangement. These are poems of gratitude for the still quickening of mature eros, the still ‘bright absolute' of desire. Redel's luminous ‘postcards to the future' render our predicament radically legible, to be survived with whatever courage we can summon. Delight with her in a city of miraculous luck.”
Redel has taught writing at Columbia University, Davidson College, The New School, and Vermont College and has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.
Woman Without Umbrella (Four Way Books, 2012)
Swoon (University of Chicago Press, 2003)
Already the World (Kent State University Press, 1995)
Before Everything (Penguin Books, 2018)
Make Me Do Things (Four Way Books, 2013)
The Border of Truth (Counterpoint Press, 2007)
Loverboy (Graywolf Press, 2001)
Where the Road Bottoms Out (Knopf, 1995)
Date Published: 2019-12-16
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/psychic