Then rise when you’re ready from your soul’s hard floor

illustration of a bee on a windowsill
Art by Kristina Closs

BEE ON A SILL 

by Tracy K. Smith (1972-)

Submits to its own weight, 
the bulb of itself too full, 

too weak or too wise
to lift and go. 

And something blunt in me
remembers the old charade 

about putting a thing out 
of its misery. For it? For me? 

Sleep, Bee, deep and easy. 
Hive, heave, give, grieve. 

Then rise when you’re ready
from your soul’s hard floor

to sweet work 
or some war.

Everyone I knew was living the same desolate luxury

After you read this poem by the former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith (1972-), listen to her read it here. And if you enjoy that, I highly recommend checking out her lovely five-minute daily poetry podcast, The Slowdown.

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the glossiest of pastry: a sticky bun with baklava on top (taken by me several years ago)

“Garden of Eden”

What a profound longing
I feel, just this very instant,
For the Garden of Eden
On Montague Street
Where I seldom shopped,
Usually only after therapy
Elbow sore at the crook
From a handbasket filled
To capacity. The glossy pastries!
Pomegranate, persimmon, quince!
Once, a bag of black beluga
Lentils spilt a trail behind me
While I labored to find
A tea they refused to carry.
It was Brooklyn. My thirties.
Everyone I knew was living
The same desolate luxury,
Each ashamed of the same things:
Innocence and privacy. I’d lug
Home the paper bags, doing
Bank-balance math and counting days.
I’d squint into it, or close my eyes
And let it slam me in the face—
The known sun setting
On the dawning century.

from Wade in the Water, 2018

I would like to know how to live with nothing

I was first introduced to Tracy K. Smith’s (1972-) poetry when she won the Pulitzer Prize for Life on Mars in 2012, and I’ve been a fan of her work since. But it wasn’t until I was at browsing at a bookstore two weeks ago that I stumbled upon her first collection, The Body’s Question (2003), which is where I found this radiant poem.

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“Credulity”

We believe we are giving ourselves away,
And so it feels good,
Our bodies swimming together
In afternoon light, the music
That enters our window as far
From the voices that made it
As our own minds are from reason.

There are whole doctrines on loving.
A science. I would like to know everything
About convincing love to give me
What it does not possess to give. And then
I would like to know how to live with nothing.
Not memory. Nor the taste of the words
I have willed you whisper into my mouth.