Sign up to receive an unpublished poem every day in your inbox.
today's poet
Jessica Greenbaum
Jessica Greenbaum

A Nearly Perfect Morning

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, December 1, 2015.
About this Poem 

“It’s funny what good fortune does in the wrong mind! I mean, I try to catch myself when I’m giving my own good luck short shrift. The poem falls in that category of my preoccupation in poems (and not in poems) with the relativity of sorrow, and how to find a place for it. I’m thinking of the stellar, oft-cited poem by Jack Gilbert, ‘A Brief for the Defense,’ in which (to be crassly reductive) he talks about the need to genuinely praise delight so that the depth of real suffering has its own integrity. How does the luxury of serene beauty—a commodity so out of reach for so many—sometimes serve as a backdrop for our self-destructive, fortune-destructive tendencies? And how can we manipulate that? How can we interpret our contextual surroundings in order to best respect the richness of what we have in the world and in ourselves? And then, how to complain?”
Jessica Greenbaum

A Nearly Perfect Morning

Jessica Greenbaum

It was a nearly perfect morning—bucolic, pastoral—
so I found myself cataloguing my past humiliations.
Really, there was no reason for it! I might as well have
looked for an ant hill to lie down on in a meadow
of goldenrod. I can’t explain it but perhaps I thought
that with the rising sun as my witness, with the catbirds
crows, and whizzing hummingbirds my soundtrack
that I could ameliorate them, neutralize their charges
against me by holding them up to the woods now in wait
for the light to balance on their individual leaves, on
the absorbing vastness of my fortune. The concentric rings
of the spider web have the wiry shine of guitar strings
there’s been so little wind it seems the trees have not
yet shook themselves awake, but we are moving around
this light at such a pace that by now the sun is nested
in the crook of two thin branches that could not hold
anything else. I was barely up to the third count
against my integrity when the whole lake turned white
but I decided it was not aghast, just trying to erase.

Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Greenbaum. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Greenbaum. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Joy Harjo

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

James Wright, Academy Fellowship recipient, at a poetry reading at the Donnell Library Center, New York City, 1972