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About this Poem 

"This poem brings together my ongoing obsessions with popular media and contemporary physics. It begins with the vacuous but relentless banter of a local news team, then centers on the two meanings of the word conceit: an inflated self-conception and (in literature) an exaggerated comparison. It ends with what might be an exaggerated comparison, 'Conceit/is the vacuum energy.'  (The vacuum or 'dark' energy is the repulsive force in empty space thought to be driving the expansion of the universe, and here, metaphorically, the patter of these television personalities.)"
—Rae Armantrout

A Conceit

Rae Armantrout, 1947

Local anchors list the ways
viewers might enjoy tomorrow.

One says, “Get some great....”, but
that seems like a stretch.

The other snickers, meaning,
“Where were you going with that?”

Like you thought


Like you could defend 

in the sense of
idle conceit,

vacuous self-

doing whatever
it takes to




As if to say,

is the vacuum energy.” 

Copyright © 2013 by Rae Armantrout. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on October 30, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout was born in Vallejo, California, in 1947, and grew up

by this poet

The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something


Did the palo verde
blush yellow
all at once?

Today's edges
are so sharp

they might cut
anything that moved.


The way a lost 

will come back

You're not interested
in it now,


I lay down
the acidification
of the ocean
with a sly smile.

beats fiery impact
every time.


But the sweet yellow
shoulders of the road—

the up and up
into same blossom.

I'd like to hold these

If sadness
is akin to patience,

                  we're back!

Pattern recognition
was our first response

to loneliness.

Here and there were like
one place.

But we need to triangulate,
find someone to show.


There's a jolt, quasi-electric,
when one of our myths
reverts to abstraction.