Published on Academy of American Poets (

According to the Gospel of Yes

It’s a thrill to say No.
The way it smothers
everything that beckons―
Any baby in a crib
will meet No’s palm
on its mouth.
And nothing sweet
can ever happen
to No―
who holds your tongue captive
behind your teeth, whose breath
whets the edge
of the guillotine―
N, head of Team Nothing,
and anti-ovum O.
And so the pit can never
the cherry―
in No, who has drilled a hole
inside your body―
Say it out loud.
Why do you love the hole
No makes.


Copyright © 2017 by Dana Levin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I was stomping around my house, saying ‘No’ (why? I cannot remember) and suddenly felt how it made a hole in my throat. My thoughts turned to the Doctrine of Signatures: a medieval idea that the forms of things suggest their function. We still see it in alternative food theory: a carrot slice looks like an eye, therefore carrots are good for sight, for example. Here it's about the sound and feel of saying ‘No’ in English: No as a hole-maker, an eraser, a pit. But: No can also be helpful, necessary, crucial. Thus: who might have an investment in libeling No? Why Yes, of course. I’m working now on a Gospel of No, where Yes comes in for similar treatment.”
—Dana Levin


Dana Levin

Dana Levin is the author of Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) and Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), among other books. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Date Published: 2017-11-09

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