Let them not say: we did not see it.
Let them not say: we did not hear it.
Let them not say: they did not taste it.
We ate, we trembled.
Let them not say: it was not spoken, not written.
we witnessed with voices and hands.
Let them not say: they did nothing.
We did not-enough.
Let them say, as they must say something:
A kerosene beauty.
Let them say we warmed ourselves by it,
read by its light, praised,
and it burned.
This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.
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.
Refresh and expand your poetic vocabulary with this collection of poetic forms, complete with historical contexts, examples, and more. For more on poetic forms, browse our selection of terms from Edward Hirsch’s A Poet’s Glossary or check out our quick teaching guide on essential poetic terms.
After the birthing of bombs of forks and fear,
the frantic automatic weapons unleashed,
the spray of bullets into a crowd holding hands,
that brute sky opening in a slate metal maw
that swallows only the unsayable in each of us, what's
left? Even the hidden nowhere river is poisoned
orange and acidic by a coal mine. How can
you not fear humanity, want to lick the creek
bottom dry to suck the deadly water up into
your own lungs, like venom? Reader, I want to
say, Don't die. Even when silvery fish after fish
comes back belly up, and the country plummets
into a crepitating crater of hatred, isn't there still
something singing? The truth is: I don't know.
But sometimes, I swear I hear it, the wound closing
like a rusted-over garage door, and I can still move
my living limbs into the world without too much
pain, can still marvel at how the dog runs straight
toward the pickup trucks break-necking down
the road, because she thinks she loves them,
because she’s sure, without a doubt, that the loud
roaring things will love her back, her soft small self
alive with desire to share her goddamn enthusiasm,
until I yank the leash back to save her because
I want her to survive forever. Don't die, I say,
and we decide to walk for a bit longer, starlings
high and fevered above us, winter coming to lay
her cold corpse down upon this little plot of earth.
Perhaps, we are always hurtling our body towards
the thing that will obliterate us, begging for love
from the speeding passage of time, and so maybe
like the dog obedient at my heels, we can walk together
peacefully, at least until the next truck comes.
Letters swallow themselves in seconds. Notes friends tied to the doorknob, transparent scarlet paper, sizzle like moth wings, marry the air. So much of any year is flammable, lists of vegetables, partial poems. Orange swirling flame of days, so little is a stone. Where there was something and suddenly isn’t, an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space. I begin again with the smallest numbers. Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves, only the things I didn’t do crackle after the blazing dies.