For August’s Poetry We Admire, we’ve gathered seven recent poems from across the web that engage with the theme of Place.
After months of sheltering in place, chances are we are longing to experience new terrain and these poems take us there without ever having to leave the house. Maybe we’ve also discovered new things to love about wherever we are, like the speaker in Traci Brimhall’s poem who didn’t know she loved Kansas until she started paying attention to its wind, its fields, the cygnets and vultures and sunflowers.
Poets help us see things differently. These seven poems take us from the winds of Kansas to the South Side of Chicago, from the hood in California to the grasslands of New Mexico. We get a glimpse of what sheltering in place feels like in Yucatán. We are forever changed by redwood, ravine, lagoon.
Place so often defines us. In her poem, “I have eaten geographies,” Sharon Tracey writes of “places that have talked back / to me, / made me who I am, /made me ache from too much—/whittled me.”
Sit back and enjoy the ride as we explore the stunning landscapes in these beauties from Traci Brimhall in Terrain.org, José Olivarez in Guesthouse, Faylita Hicks in The Adroit Journal, Travis Cravey in Marías at Sampaguitas, Catherine Pierce in The Shore, Nadia Escalante Andrade translated by Cecilia Weddell in Harvard Review Online and Sharon Tracey in SWWIM.
I didn’t know I loved Kansas, with its wind skirling
through the arms of windmills, its fields gravid
with lavender, its subscriptions for sunflowers.
I thought I was pollen complaint and water hunger.
I didn’t know I loved the hopeful ugliness of cygnets,
or that a group of vultures is called a wake, or that
a skull oxbows with a signature unique as a fingerprint.
from “Letter to America”
by Traci Brimhall in Terrain.org
Out in Calumet City, there weren’t any billionaires,
so we drove to River Oaks Mall & stole
all the pennies out of the fountain.
after we added it all up, we had enough
for a gyro & some cheese fries at Pano’s.
every Cal City resident got exactly one fry
dipped in cheese, & it turned out that old fountain
couldn’t give us love or the winning lottery numbers,
but it could grant local wishes, wishes with a budget.
from “Eat the Rich”
by José Olivarez in Guesthouse Lit
My momma points out the hood. Notes where I was almost buried—
under the sick green porches of the ghetto. Points out the corner
on which my daddy made her my mama & drives silently towards her block
& the pictures I didn’t bother saving. She points out the highlights
for me to remember—where she knew he was man,
where she knew men, where the high school’s lawn used to sprawl—
from “Steel Horses”
by Faylita Hicks in The Adroit Journal
Thinking of you,
I lost sight of why I was there.
You don’t walk through the grassland
of New Mexico for pleasure, after all.
from “The Hunt”
by Travis Cravey in Marías at Sampaguitas
Canyon me. Ravine me. Redwood me,
roots deep to the wet center. Limb me
cloudward. Fan me out alluvial
and unabashed. My soft heart sediment.
My hard heart anthracite. Lagoon me.
by Catherine Pierce in The Shore
Every now and then a car goes by; only one passenger, apart from the driver, is allowed. There are sounds that stand out more now: the little honk of a horn that the sweet bread-sellers sound as they travel the streets on their tricycles. We’ve bought from them a couple times: conchas, saramuyos, hojaldras, mini pound cakes, especially now that the summer rains have arrived and the nights are cool.
from “Mérida, Yucatán”
by Nadia Escalante Andrade, translated by Cecilia Weddell in Harvard Review Online
hard bits and soft pieces,
bitter, sour, and sweet
places that have talked back
made me who I am,
made me ache from too much—
What we love, we love.
by Sharon Tracey in SWWIM