Published on Academy of American Poets (

I Say the Thing for the First Time

& there’s no taking it back now.
What comes next? Charcoal underbone, 

darkroom for soliloquy & irises wide
at home. Some underside party popping

off & ending with me counting resignations
on a couch made from my last pennies—

copper profiles cushion deep, dull 
with emancipation & worth almost me.

Button nicks instead of eyes. Green
patina instead of skin over presidential 

profiles. How to separate these awkward
exhales from the marinating revivals?

The song in the park across the street
dials up something endless about love

& big sunflowers, but I can’t split
this primal reflection from its primary 

leather. Sneakers & skeletons arrhythmic
in their leaving & squeaking: twisting

in somebody else’s garden in the middle
of a cracked city near a river so thick

with its own beat-up history, it’s already
eye level to the flocking blackbirds. 


Copyright © 2019 by Adrian Matejka. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The most challenging kind of poem for me to write is a love poem, so I’m trying to write a whole book of them. This poem is about the instant when you tell someone you love them for the first time. They either say yes and everyone is happy or they respond in a non sequitur—they start dusting the shelves, tying their shoes or, as was the case in the moment that inspired this poem, they leave to go get more ice.”
Adrian Matejka


Adrian Matejka

Adrian Matejka is the author of The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013), which was nominated for both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana. 

Date Published: 2019-10-02

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