Published on Academy of American Poets (

from The Laceration

As if the tender body is. As if the will is tender

And like any creature that has its hood up, you

take a photo of yourself in front of a window, rain

so dark, the day/perspective so desired. You are so

desperate for beautiful adventure, the lights shut off

and the sweat of some hot stranger in your mouth. As if

to say “before” is to enter a house filled with teenagers

piled on top of each other. Did I tell you that it’s raining?

It’s not hard to think that it’s already night and necessary,

how any green is a wild form, and lastly, I don’t want to

inspire devotion if it means the I becomes separated from the world.

To travel into and out of place […] swift unnature of staying

becomes a frequency […] you can no longer hear, the construct

of happiness, for example, how we long for a heartbeat.

Cement lot […] aching willow tree, our bodies [before] beneath

splay, all sinew and glean, black drape and raw confidence. It’s 1986

and freedom is something inevitable, the way brown boys run

shirtless, invisible siren roaring toward a fit mouth to bit it, O

from saying lightness, from—

What is the opposite of devastation? Fruit?


Copyright © 2021 by Dawn Lundy Martin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I'm reading from The Laceration, which is an ongoing project begun at the beginning of the pandemic. The poem attempts to speak as if a giant hole has been ripped in the sky. What cushions the experience is nostalgia for the past—what makes us feel alive. ”
Dawn Lundy Martin


Dawn Lundy Martin

Dawn Lundy Martin is author of four books of poetry including most recently, Good Stock Strange Blood (Coffee House Press, 2017), winner of the 2019 Kingsley Tufts Award. She is the Toi Derricotte Chair in English and Director of the Center for African American Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh.

Date Published: 2021-07-13

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