- Birthday, Poetry, Reading, Writing

From the Archives: Four Poems, by Elaine Equi

Happy birthday, Elaine Equi! Celebrate by reading the four Equi poems below, which we published this year! Follow that by reading the four Equi poems we published in 2019; and be sure to watch Equi reading those poems!


Emotions: A Boxed Set


It’s the kind of tail-in-socket anxiety
that plugs directly into the body—
manifesting in myriad symptoms of dis-ease.

Heat, chills, itch,
light-headedness attached
to a lead weight.

A tilted feeling.
An agitated remix
of all of the above.

The scalp
(or is it the brain?)
aflame, like a burning bush.



Being able to breathe.
In. Out.

The billowing curtain
of cilia and nerve endings
stirred by an oxygen breeze.

How long can I keep this up?
What could be better?



Even when I’m not thinking about food,
I’m thinking about food.

I’m feeling the pulsations,
the vibrations of phantom food

The word “chicken”
becomes a mantra.

Burgers appear
like bloody daggers in Macbeth.

It seems fitting in old age
to return to an oral stage
when food was of
primary importance
and time was structured
around meals.

When you looked
at every object and wondered—
edible or not.



Taking Stock

There I was—
mindfully minding
my own business.

scanning every item
in my body

and sorting them
into bins of seeing,
hearing, feeling, thinking.


Labeling every thought
leaves little time to think them,
which is probably for the best.

Labeling every pain or sensation
can sometimes make them disappear.
Perhaps they were in your mind after all,
whatever that means.

I wonder what will become of me
and my ambition.

Not living—but labeling.

Not lost in thought—
just thinking, thinking.



Washington Square

Choosing the Hot Seat

Ignored the shade

in favor of
a sun-baked
stone bench.

Hours later,

the ass, still warm,


Beware of


like knives
invisible cake.


Tobacco Breeze

As if
the whole park

were smoking
a cigarette

and had
just exhaled.



“I Saw Delight”*

I walked straight into the day’s diamond mine,

stuffing my eyes with as much dazzle
as would fit in the back pockets of my brain
and the dingy tote bag of my body.

The shadows were dark and luxurious
beneath silver trestles of light.

I saw a woman carrying the trophy of a gold balloon,
letting it bounce lightly above her head—
her thoughts golden.

Someone else was walking a diamond dog.
Each of its hairs was polished to perfection.

From every object, prisms of paths opened.

Where did they all lead?

Why would anyone want to be anyplace but here?


*The title is a one-line poem by Robert Creeley: “Homage to Hank Williams.”

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