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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 9, 2017.
About this Poem 
“I was stomping around my house, saying ‘No’ (why? I cannot remember) and suddenly felt how it made a hole in my throat. My thoughts turned to the Doctrine of Signatures: a medieval idea that the forms of things suggest their function. We still see it in alternative food theory: a carrot slice looks like an eye, therefore carrots are good for sight, for example. Here it's about the sound and feel of saying ‘No’ in English: No as a hole-maker, an eraser, a pit. But: No can also be helpful, necessary, crucial. Thus: who might have an investment in libeling No? Why Yes, of course. I’m working now on a Gospel of No, where Yes comes in for similar treatment.”
—Dana Levin
 

According to the Gospel of Yes

It’s a thrill to say No.
 
The way it smothers
everything that beckons―
 
Any baby in a crib
will meet No’s palm
on its mouth.
 
And nothing sweet
can ever happen
 
 
             
 
 
to No―
 
who holds your tongue captive
behind your teeth, whose breath
whets the edge
 
 
             
 
 
of the guillotine―
 
N, head of Team Nothing,
and anti-ovum O.
 
And so the pit can never
engender
 
 
             
 
 
the cherry―
 
in No, who has drilled a hole
inside your body―
 
No.
Say it out loud.
Why do you love the hole
 
No makes.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Dana Levin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Dana Levin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Dana Levin

Dana Levin

Dana Levin is the author of Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) and Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), among other books. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

by this poet

poem
Six monarch butterfly cocoons
      clinging to the back of your throat—

      you could feel their gold wings trembling.

You were alarmed. You felt infested.
In the downstairs bathroom of the family home,
      gagging to spit them out—
            and a voice saying Don’t, don’t—
2
poem

You wanted to be a butcher
but they made you be a lawyer.

You brought home presents
when it was nobody’s birthday.

Smashed platters of meat
she cut against the grain.

Were a kind
             of portable shrine—

             I was supposed to cultivate a field of bliss,

poem

Say Stop.

Keep your lips pressed together
after you say the p:


(soon they’ll try
and pry

your breath out—)

Whisper it
three times in a row:

Stop Stop Stop

In a hospital bed
like a curled up fish, someone’s

gulping at air—

How should

2