Kai Carlson-Wee is the author of Rail (BOA Editions, 2018). A former Wallace Stegner fellow, he teaches poetry at Stanford University and lives in San Francisco, California.
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Don’t go in search of the perfect word.
Don’t go looking for signs of redemption,
the purified water of gods. The language
will enter your mouth when it needs to.
The beauty will find you. The meaning
will come. Don’t go smiling. Don’t go
certain of one true voice. Go ambiguous,
lonely, disguised in the basic math. Take
nothing for granted. Escape what you are,
what you wish you will one day become.
It doesn’t matter. The skin dies. The worm
lives a whole year in darkness. The clouds
go on rising away from the falling rain.
Even the good love inside you will vanish.
The wheels will seize and the trickling stream
at the top of the mountain will carve out
a valley below. The world will give you
an opening always. The night sky. The moon
lifting over the tall and mysterious pines.
Hold out the feather you found last night
in the bracken. All it can offer is already
there in your hand.