Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Gift

Like a spittle of aluminum, a crest of fear
in a long-faced mirror, like water rushing over a box,
like a dried sentence flying in the air,
like being shown a picture of a perforated wave,
like a mark that appears on each moment,
like knowing a man is in the box,
ingot of man, and the water is shiny, highly intuitive.

Like a mote dripping with silver,
a cataract painted with lead, a sentence of gleam,
and the sky speed up, cloudy, obscure, occluded, unheard of
using a cat’s eye for a planet,
like the water now almost reaching
the help desk across the marble floor
of the enormous lobby of the hospital.
The sculpture, a prototype, donated by the major
auto-pharmaceutical industries, Spanish moss fills the ceiling
in the car port, vaults rush past picking up no one
and souls like aphids stream the stalk of the escalator.

In this gift—a sheen, a shining—wrapped around
a grid of major research hospitals in one block,
on an acre with a drop-away floor,
the mesh bow, car-sized, is heavier than it looks.
Shreds of people, the day torn off, and the incinerator is working.
Oh, dollop of man. Replica of Rodin’s thinker from the gift shop,
I spot that, neon yellow teddy bear inside leaves of cellophane
for the sick child, I spot that. A man is inside the box
of cascading water. He is always wrapped in the present
moment. By now, the silvery water runs over the lines /
of this poem. I feel like shaking for the jet, the cross inside the box.
We are all headed home.


From Lid to the Shadow (Slope Editions, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Alexandria Peary. Used with permission of the author.


Alexandria Peary

Alexandria Peary was born to an American father and a German mother in Dover, New Hampshire and grew up in her parents’ convenience store in central Maine. She received a BA from Colby College; MFAs from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and a PhD from the University of New Hampshire. Peary is the author of five volumes of poetry: Battle of Silicon Valley at Daybreak (Spuyten Duyvil, 2021); The Water Draft (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019); Control Bird Alt Delete (University of Iowa, 2014), winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize; and Lid to the Shadow (Slope Editions, 2011), recipient of the Slope Editions Book Prize.

Peary specializes in mindful writing to alleviate writing blocks and is the author of Prolific Moment: Theory and Practice of Mindfulness for Writing (Routledge, 2018). Her presentations on mindful writing include a web series for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), a webcast for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and her 2019 TEDx talk, “How Mindfulness Can Transform the Way You Write.” Peary is also the author of a collection of creative writing pedagogy co-edited with the poet Tom C. Hunley, Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015).

Peary teaches at Salem State University and is the poet laureate of New Hampshire.

Read about Alexandria Peary’s 2020 Poets Laureate Fellowship project.

Date Published: 2011-01-01

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