The Academy of American Poets is the largest membership-based nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets. For over three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, the Academy’s popular website; American Poets, a biannual literary journal; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. Since its founding, the Academy has awarded more money to poets than any other organization.
There are no stars tonight
But those of memory.
Yet how much room for memory there is
In the loose girdle of soft rain.
There is even room enough
For the letters of my mother’s mother,
That have been pressed so long
Into a corner of the roof
That they are brown and soft,
And liable to melt as snow.
Over the greatness of such space
Steps must be gentle.
It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air.
And I ask myself:
"Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?"
Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
Through much of what she would not understand;
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.
Dear murderous world, dear gawking heart,
I never wrote back to you, not one word
wrenched itself free of my fog-draped mind
to dab in ink the day's dull catalog
of ruin. Take back the ten-speed bike
which bent like a child's cheap toy
beneath me. Accept as your own
the guitar that was smashed over my brother,
who writes now from jail in Savannah,
who I cannot begin to answer. Here
is the beloved pet who died at my feet
and there, outside my window,
is where my mother buried it in a coffin
meant for a newborn. Upon
my family, raw and vigilant, visit numbness.
Of numbness I know enough.
And to you I've now written too much,
dear cloud of thalidomide,
dear spoon trembling at the mouth,
dear marble-eyed doll never answering back.