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Poem-A-Day

Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication. For more information about how to syndicate Poem-a-Day, contact poem-a-day@poets.org.

Close Encounters

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 27, 2017.
About this Poem 

“‘Close Encounters’ began as a therapeutic exercise—an invective written to an ex-next-door neighbor who was unwilling to acknowledge my presence as anything other than a threat. But during revision, when the actual healing took place, the poem’s tone and audience changed. It never ceases to amaze me, the anodyne that is poetry."
—Marcus Wicker

Close Encounters

I was a real cute kid. Ask anybody. My father
likes to tell a story about a modeling scout

who spotted us out midday shopping
at the Briarwood Mall. Imagine five-year-old me,

all sailor stripes & junior afro, doing a full pull-up
on the magazine kiosk: Got any Keats? No doubt

something I’d heard watching Jeopardy
with granny, but it mattered not

to the tickled pink lady. Oh, you’re just soooo
sweet! What a cutie-sweet! she decreed, handing dad

her flowery card. It wouldn’t stop there.
My 10th birthday, whole neighborhood invited,

I strutted down the stairs in a white sports coat
like, Look, folks. In case you’re wondering,

I’m the host! My mother told Mrs. Holbrook
He was born full-grown with a briefcase. As I’m sure

you will be, little sewn seed, undone. Future me.
Dear son, the defacing starts much later.

After desegregation sparks the awkward clutch
of Coach clutches on campus busses, but before

the riots in Baltimore. It started a few days before
I turned thirty, Invisibility. Home from teaching

the sons & daughters of Indiana farm hands
it’s ok to write poems, same briefcase slung

tired across wrinkled linen, you’d have thought
I accosted her—Maria—when I stooped down

to pluck my mother a pair of magenta tulips    
from her own thriving garden, & she shrieked

Why are you staring at my lawn! Maria who
used to slide teen-me a twenty to occupy her

daughter in the playpen while she grabbed
a bottle of Bordeaux from the basement

before the real nanny arrived. She must have seen
straight through me, into the distant past, alternate

reality when your grandparents’ neighboring
residence would have been a servants’, & I

in that moment, for the first time, unsaw her.
As primer. A kind of manila cardstock 

I’d failed to imprint. Son, sometimes this happens.
It happens in gated spaces when you look like

a lock pick. See the 44th president. Scratch that.
It happens in gated spaces, as the lone

locksmith. & if I’m being honest,
the happy way things are going between

me & E., you may well resemble him.   
Don’t count yourself precious. Truth is,

too soon, you will bend down to rob a few
bright blossoms from your own land &

look away from the earth
to make certain you haven’t been ogled.

This phantom guilt applied to a nape
through the eyes of every blind Maria,

here’s the key: try not to let it die.
Now run to the closest mirror, quickly

remember how sweet the fleeting love.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Marcus Wicker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Marcus Wicker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

previous poems

datesort ascending title author
February 14, 2017 Heart to Heart Rita Dove
February 13, 2017 What Would Gwendolyn Brooks Do Parneshia Jones
February 12, 2017 Adolescence Claude McKay
February 11, 2017 At the Fair Edith Sitwell
February 10, 2017 Ice Would Suffice Risa Denenberg
February 09, 2017 Plex Lisa Robertson
February 08, 2017 If They Are a Silueta Melissa Buzzeo
February 07, 2017 Possums Sheila Black
February 06, 2017 Apology from a Muslim Orphan Tarfia Faizullah
February 05, 2017 Débris Lola Ridge

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