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Four Poems, by Rae Armantrout


Word Is

In the beginning,

with its long Z sound,

is invested,


With ripple and stutter;
bloom and meme.


Swooping and curling,
the vine sprigs
are graphomaniacs.


In the rush
to say something
novel and credible,

many celebrants
are crushed.


A palm frond shimmies
like a tambourine.



Light-infused blue.

So it seems.

Called “baby.”

The veil of leaves.

Was that a cliché?

Piercingly sweet.

Big tinkle!


Small realizations, lined up. Pings.



Which came first
the pulse or the impulse?

Either seems implausible.


“Eleven minutes ago,
we went to the tummy store.”
The little girl gestures
as if moving hangers



Light is dark
until it strikes
something, gets


At the speed of light,
there is no time and
nothing can happen.




The red tree
by the yellow one.


is a sensation
like the squeal

of a balloon when
pressure’s put on it,

and it expels air



A Jack-O-Lantern
is an aid
to memory.

Cartoon orange
of the October trees.

We get to practice
falling into darkness,

grabbing at candy.



a little vague.

It’s a wandering
of feeling,

an unaccountable funnel.

Pursed lips
in the slipstream.


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Rae Armantrout is the author of many books of poetry and has also been featured in a number of major anthologies. Her most recent books include Finalists, Conjure, Versed (winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry), Money Shot, Just Saying, Itself, Partly: New and Selected Poems, 2001-2015, and Wobble (a National Book Awards finalist). Armantrout currently teaches at the University of California, San Diego, where she is Professor of Poetry and Poetics.

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