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Five Poems


The ring of the pickaxes
of people searching
for the bones
of their dead relatives
plays in an art museum
in Mexico City

on repeat.

“It’s very real for them,
 isn’t it?”
asks PBS anchor
Jeffrey Brown,
leaning in.


Then geese cycle madly
across a pond
like Wile E. Coyote
three feet past the cliff—

catch lift
and join the great migration.

You can too,
they seem to suggest.

Time’s arrow is pointed elsewhere.

Not even Loony Tunes
is forever.


But if drug gangs,
the mechanics of flight,
and Wile E. Coyote
occur in my mind’s eye
in rapid succession,
I need to believe
there’s some reason—
or else things fall apart.

Ant trails
and cob webs
from one thought
to the next,

strings of Xmas lights.


Second Life


I collect words to fill empty space.

“I think a lot of their enduring appeal
is how real it is.”


Many people believe
charismatic objects
are spirits.

They think such spirits
can enliven us.


I like to collect smooth
multi-colored rocks,

so distinct from the dirt or mud
they rest on,

carry them awhile,
then set them down--

like this.


I dreamed I was captioning
the last dream I had—

or one that was playing
elsewhere in my head.


Your Attention

We ask you to pay attention,

by which we mean direct it
as if you existed
apart from it.

This must sound like hocus pocus,
but we assure you
it is very real.

An afterimage
can control the future.

We don’t have time
to be more specific.

I don’t have time to sit here
or there.

I don’t have time to save
this document.

I don’t have time to continue
about spider cognition.

    Spiders who “actively promote
    signal transmission throughout the web,”

    who “outsource information processing
    to environmental features,”

    “eliminating the need
    for an internal model”   

    or soul.



True or false:
it’s easy
to imagine
being someone else.


What about the sleek crows
strutting on the lawn?

Are they ever uncertain?


“I don’t want anything,”
the child says mournfully
when we ask her
to make a wish.

She can see we want
but she can’t tell what.



If nothing new comes up,
my last thought
gets stuck—stutters.

Could be a dangling
gone insistent,

ready to fill the world
with itself.
A neat trick.

A hook and eye,
grown exponential.

I prefer snippets
of music
without words,

on a placid surface—


Rae Armantrout’s Wobble was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award and Conjure was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry (both Wesleyan University Press). Her newest collection, Finalists, is also forthcoming from Wesleyan in the spring of 2022.