Published on Academy of American Poets (

Maelstrom: One Drop Makes the Whole World Kin

All the world is one, like an angry deity’s essence dropped in
      the ocean
becoming monstrous: what happens Mumbai happens Paris
What happens Vicenza U.S. Base or Prodi, Kyoto Accord, XL
advanced warplanes to Japan—what happens?  Egypt, Yemen,
NASA’s five space probes or Aurora Borealis where we study
      shimmering light
What happens on the Lunar New Year
I want to know, Professor, are there names for these mercurial
A lexicon & vibration touch the complexity of gestural motion
What happened with Augustine & his mother in Ostia?
I want to know what happens Nicea 325 perhaps God creates
      the world!
Let’s go back and check this out: Ex nihilio ardore/splendore
Europe still riding the pull of Zeus a nuclear reactor not
Heads coming off in cruelest acts, unspeakable
And how that is part of your story too—flooding in
in Morocco, in Indonesia a part of you all suffering a part of
What happens Rwanda, Darfur, Chad, Ukraine, glaciers
      shrinking what happens
when carbon-capped bombs fall on Natanz? on Bushehr
What is the poet’s job out of numbed slumber?
Entering post-poet-modernity I gave my larynx a workout
Started chanting for the redemption of Irreparable
Om Ah Hum for the Year of the Shy but Cunning Metal
Inshallah O Peace Brutal Year of the Wooden Horse
The Gentle Sheep Year O Help us Now, Shalom Ah Hum,


Copyright © 2015 by Anne Waldman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

About this Poem

“This poem is a prayer or incantation for understanding the vicissitudes of the world’s perpetual (and more and more man-made), inflected chaos. The repeated question: ‘what happens?’ is perhaps a useless query. There is no stopping ‘what happens.’ All the poet can do is sound her complaint and awareness, naming trouble spots, calling on religious mantras to further sound the alarm. Praying for a more salutary New Year that will wake the world to itself.”
Anne Waldman


Anne Waldman

A prominent figure in the Beat poetry generation, Anne Waldman has published over forty books of poetry and is the cofounder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2011 to 2016.

Date Published: 2015-04-16

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