poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 10, 2018.
About this Poem 

“I broke my neck in a bicycle wreck in 1986, and lately, I have been writing poems for each year since then. I mention Ronald Reagan and the airport because I saw him land in Air Force One, taxi up to a waiting stage festooned with flags and banners, and make some kind of speech to the gathered throng. It was exciting in an uncomplicated way: I was a kid and had no thoughts about arms dealing, or AIDS, or dementia. I remember the heat of the sun coming off the tarmac and Secret Service agents inspecting my wheelchair and then my young body as if it could be something dangerous.”
—Paul Guest

1987

I began to die, then. I think
I was asleep. Dreaming
of an afterlife that revised
my flesh into what
I had wanted. Why do
I think of Ronald Reagan
the way one recalls
vague nightmare:
the sick heart and terror
which is percussive.
Was this the year
I saw him at the airport.
Men grimly tested
my body for hidden death,
waving a wand up
and down. My left arm
healed wrongly
and it was surgery
that put it right. Look,
if you want, at
the pale stippling of scar,
there. Some nights I wake
and everything hurts
a little. It is
amazing how long
a ruined thing
will burn. In the night,
there are words,
though often I've denied
their shape. Their sound.
My soul: whatever
it sings it is singing.

Copyright © 2018 by Paul Guest. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Paul Guest. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Paul Guest

Paul Guest

Paul Guest is the author of Because Everything Is Terrible (Diode Editions, 2018).

by this poet

poem
Should the painful condition of irreversible paralysis
last longer than forever or at least until
your death by bowling ball or illegal lawn dart
or the culture of death, which really has it out
for whoever has seen better days
but still enjoys bruising marathons of bird watching,
you, or your beleaguered
poem
Dear murderous world, dear gawking heart,
I never wrote back to you, not one word

wrenched itself free of my fog-draped mind
to dab in ink the day's dull catalog

of ruin. Take back the ten-speed bike
which bent like a child's cheap toy

beneath me. Accept as your own
the guitar that was smashed over my brother
poem

I’m thinking of the boiling sea
and the dream in which
all the fish were singing.
I want to wake up with my heart
not aching like death,
but I am always falling
in to terror. I’m a good person.
I grieve to appropriate degrees.
I mourn this season. This moment.
I mourn

2