By Stephanie Burt
Complete in ourselves,
we look like scraps of paper anyway:
left alone, we could tell
our mothers and one another our owners’
flimsiest secrets and play together all day
until we became intertwined, which is why
to keep us permanently apart.
One of us is a gossamer pirate ship,
a frigate whose rigging the industrial
sunset highlights, sail by oblong sail.
Another resembles a Greek letter — gamma,
or lambda; others still
a ligature, a propeller, a fat lip.
Our will is not exactly the wind’s will.
Underlined by sand,
whose modes of coagulation and cohabitation
none of the human pedestrians understand,
we take off on our almost arbitrarily
lengthy singletons of string
towards the unattainable, scarily
lofty realm of hawk and albatross
and stay, backlit by cirrocumulus.
It seems to be up to you
to keep us
up in the air, and to make sure our paths never cross.
Stephanie Burt is a poet, literary critic, and professor. Burt has taught at Macalester College and is now Professor of English at Harvard University. She lives in the suburbs of Boston with her spouse, Jessie Bennett, and their two children.
More Poems about Activities
Vagrants and Loiterers
You got that clean waistcoat,
the bright white of a well-tailored
shirt, you got those loose-as-sacks
slacks and some spit-polished shoes,
and you know, whether you are looking
like money, or about to take a stroll,
to tilt that hat like you own
the world; yeah, smoke...
In the warmth of night I put feet to my plan: waited
for my brothers to sleep. They’d spent the day
sharpening their hooks, repairing the great net,
filling gourds with fresh water. They’d bundled
taro wrapped in leaves sitting below the cross seats.
More Poems about Nature
What Women Are Made Of
We are all ventricle, spine, lung, larynx, and gut.
Clavicle and nape, what lies forked in an open palm;
we are follicle and temple. We are ankle, arch,
sole. Pore and rib, pelvis and root
and tongue. We are wishbone and gland and molar
Of Tribulation, these are They,
Denoted by the White.
— Emily Dickinson
in the split geode
a Santa’s grotto
every surface —
like sea urchins’ —
in the doorways
sleepers from the womb
to make of anything succulent