Published on Academy of American Poets (

Desire [even in the time of the tyrant]

then i am sprawling in through me
then i am fastened into myself
into my points and my pulls
then i am spinning in rev, in stare
it is a stun and a shunning of this life
it is a slutting of this life
it is a spawning of this moment
i am a promise awake with knowing
a pull in a thread
a sputtering
a stuttering
a slant
a song
a rising
a falling
a driving to the edge & waiting
a waiting for the edge to fall
an edging closer to the fall
a wanting the fall to crush
and now i am in the fall
i am the fall
i thank the desire
i kiss the desire
i hold the desire
i thumb the desire
i bite the desire
i thrust the desire
i grind the desire
i rub the desire
it is without oars
& sitting
circling in a pond
it is the wind tracing
the feet of the kicking beneath that surface
the earth beneath sucking & sucking
that filling of the mouth
that shattering of time
i am bringing myself to a standstill
i am allowing the water to spread
i am afloat in the desire
the desire of me
of you
i am pinning myself to the surface
waiting for the moon to fall
longing for the pierce of stars
tonguing the night
brushing away the darkness
til there is light
til my eyes
to the white
of the sky


Copyright © 2019 by Leah Umansky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This is a tyrant-inspired poem from my new manuscript Of Tyrant, which is full of politically-themed poems I have written since 45 took office. I wrote this poem on a day where I felt I was sparking with desire; that if someone saw me, really saw me, they would see desire’s circuitry lighting the length of me, like a streetlamp, and they would stare at my willing spark. That day, I sat down at my laptop and these lines just fell out of me. Usually, my poems are full of long lines that use the whole page, that play with white space and margins, but here, the lines are mostly short, and the pacing is fast, breathless, and desirous. When writing it, I thought, here is something the tyrant can’t take away from us—our desire—that feeling that makes us human, and after writing this poem, I was thankful to write a poem of pleasure, to finally feel something other than disgust.”
—Leah Umansky


Leah Umansky

Leah Umansky is the author of poetry collections, including Domestic Uncertainties (blazevox, 2013).

Date Published: 2019-07-17

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