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About this Poem 

"I began this poem when I lived in Boston, where our apartment had a view of the John Hancock Tower. The poem was once two separate, longer poems, one about the Hancock and one about the café, now trimmed down and mixed together. Growing up in a small town, tall buildings have always amazed me and I think the poem has its origins in my childish awe of skyscrapers. I think the poem began with a game I am constantly playing inside my head: imagine something as something else."
—Matt Rasmussen


Matt Rasmussen

A sword thrust
into the city.

From inside
the café, the letters

on the window
look like a new

language. It’s this
simple: There is

nothing within us
like what we are

inside this window.
Colossal seppuku,

you are the sky
before the sky.

Copyright © 2013 by Matt Rasmussen. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 6, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Matt Rasmussen

Matt Rasmussen

His poetry collection, Black Aperture, was selected by Jane Hirshfield as the winner of the 2012 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets

by this poet



Kafka said, A book
must be an axe

for the frozen sea 
inside us, which sounds 

great, but what good 
is an axe against 

a frozen sea?
Perhaps this is why

he said, while dying,
Destroy everything.

There is little comfort
in knowing there

are worse undertakings
than killing yourself


My foreshadow stretches
out in front of me.

We stand on the soles
of each other's feet.

I am a field
and there's a man

standing in the middle
of me saying,

God is the sky pinning
me to my body.

I am a man
and there is a field 

under me saying, 
A dead man makes

love to the earth
Nothing ever absolutely has to happen. The gun 
doesn't have to be fired. When our hero sits 

on the edge of his bed contemplating the pistol 
on his nightstand, you have to believe he might 

not use it. Then the theatre is sunk in blackness.
The audience is a log waiting to be split open. The faint 

scuff of