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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


Anything cancels
everything out.

If each point
is a singularity,

thrusting all else
aside for good,

“good” takes the form
of a throng
of empty chairs.

Or  it’s ants
swarming a bone.


I’m afraid
I don’t love
my mother
who’s dead

though I once –
what does “once” mean? –
did love her .
We maintain a critical distance
from the sad spaniel gentlemen

in cravats
on the plaid duvet

at the Custom Hotel,
Los Angeles.

We are so over it.
We fly

from terminal
to terminal

almost endlessly.

We are almost

We can wait
at high speed.
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.