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John Pluecker
John Pluecker

So Many

Recorded for Poem-a-Day January 21, 2019.
About this Poem 

"I live in the East End in Houston, Texas, a neighborhood where my father's parents built a house in the 1920s and a space that my settler colonial family—mainly German but also Irish and other European lineages—has been transiting through for the last seven generations. Now, I move my body through this space of constant shifting, brazen capitalist profiteering, and displacement of working-class Latinx and Black folks, a few miles from the largest petrochemical complex in the United States. So many layers and so many so many so many... The poem happened one morning after a flood. Befitting my gulf coast home, the words flooded out too."
—John Pluecker

So Many

so many this mornings so many movement so many breezes 
so many cypress so many doorways demolished so many brush 
so many vines crawl up the front of that house and so many 
spaces so many wide open between one structure and another 
so many ditches so many cars parked in the grass in front of a home 
supposedly abandoned where people live so many branches 
piles at the curb so many beat-downs so many row houses 
gone and so many porches so many cut-throughs so many feeling
still in the wood so many highways invade so many train horns 
blow softly so many autumn morning so many springtime dusk 
so many pink afternoon as the sun peeks through the blinds so many 
pick-up trucks so many suvs so many milk factories and so many 
18 wheelers so many tiny plastic bottles of milk and so many oaks 
and so many farms and so many concrete and so many cracked 
and so many peeling paint so many thickness so many depression 
so many joy so many angry pinpricks so many back-ups so many 
give me a hug so many late night drunken driving so many early 
morning so many mourning doves so many cooing so many police 
sirens so many listening so many humans walk the middle of the road 
so many cars wait to pass so many anger and so many smile so many 
apprehension so many thistles so many concrete slabs so many gape
so many lost and so many nights so many grandmas so many grandkids 
so many people just trying to remember what used to be there 
so many new people who just got here so many things to misremember
so many escape memory so many brains so many bodies so many 
bodies gone and so many cemeteries marked and unmarked so 
many ditches so many huevo con papa and cake so many deep 
deep breaths so many sighs so many pauses so many moments of 
silence so many marches so many meetings god so many meetings 
so many attempts so many failures so many new townhomes so many 
dispossessed so many carwashes so many cowboy hats so many persons 
forced out so many barbecues so many coolers so many bags of ice so 
many country ballads so many accordions so many quiet so many loud 
so many noisy so many silent so many germans so many telephone road 
so many lasagna so many pupusa so many gordita so many jaywalkers 
and so many dance moves at the bus stop so many jiggling and so many 
cars pass by so many stares and so many awkwardness so many 
good mornings so many fuck you’s so many fights and so many love-
making so many graffitied so many murals so many old doors so many 
lintels so many country people come to the city so many bulldozers 
and so many work crews so many dusty lifts into air so many hardhats 
and so many pallets so many pine and so many sheet of metal 
so many buses so many stray dogs so many mean-mugging 
and so many evictions so many eminent domain so many minimizing 
and so many excuses so many money so many reasons so many justify 
so many sadness so many let it go and so many so-called misunder-
standings so many moldy and wet so many floodlines so many hurricanes 
so many attitudes so many perspectives so many sung and un-sung so 
many panaderías demolished so many pushing and so many pulling 
so many mechanics so many broken down cars so many lay in the sun so 
many wait so many trees blow in the early morning wind so many
speed up and so many people go home so many people go to work so 
many undone so many bulldozers so many hoses spray water on wreckage 
so many shovelfuls of metal and lumber so many precious objects discard so 
many lost in the tumble so many feelings so many yellow and red so many 
silver and gold so many blue and green so many green things so many grass 
so many suns beat down so many heatstrokes so many city moves on 
so many layers so many accumulations so many things a street a street remember 

Copyright © 2018 by John Pluecker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 21, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by John Pluecker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 21, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

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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.


The Year

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of the year.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
Naomi Shihab Nye
Mississippi National River & Recreation Area. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
In Memoriam

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Wallace Stevens

A House Called Tomorrow

You are not fifteen, or twelve, or seventeen—
You are a hundred wild centuries

And fifteen, bringing with you
In every breath and in every step

Everyone who has come before you,
All the yous that you have been,

The mothers of your mother,
The fathers of your father.

If someone in your family tree was trouble,
A hundred were not:

The bad do not win—not finally,
No matter how loud they are.

We simply would not be here
If that were so.

You are made, fundamentally, from the good.
With this knowledge, you never march alone.

You are the breaking news of the century.
You are the good who has come forward

Through it all, even if so many days
Feel otherwise.  But think:

When you as a child learned to speak,
It’s not that you didn’t know words—

It’s that, from the centuries, you knew so many,
And it’s hard to choose the words that will be your own.

From those centuries we human beings bring with us
The simple solutions and songs,

The river bridges and star charts and song harmonies
All in service to a simple idea:

That we can make a house called tomorrow.
What we bring, finally, into the new day, every day,

Is ourselves.  And that’s all we need
To start.  That’s everything we require to keep going. 

Look back only for as long as you must,
Then go forward into the history you will make.

Be good, then better.  Write books.  Cure disease.
Make us proud.  Make yourself proud.

And those who came before you?  When you hear thunder,
Hear it as their applause.

Alberto Ríos

Lesson Plans for Winter and the Holidays

Celebrate winter and the holiday season in the classroom with this selection of lesson plans featuring poems by Richard Blanco, Emily Dickinson, Naomi Shihab Nye, and more.


A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

Fall-Winter 2018 issue of American Poets