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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 8, 2016.
About this Poem 

“I wanted to re-route (or seem to) the poem’s speaker’s attention, away from the poem itself, and from the idea of the writer, characters and/or subjects in the poem to instead try to shine a light on (or seem to) that essential but oft misunderstood creature, the reader. Hopefully, the poem is an ode to reading and readers, with just a soupçon of narcissism discernible in the speaker’s voice.”
—Amy Gerstler

Dear Reader,

Through what precinct of life’s forest are you hiking at this                 moment?
Are you kicking up leaf litter or stabbed by brambles?
Of what stuff are you made? Gossamer or chain mail?
Are you, as reputed, marvelously empty? Or invisibly ever-                   present,
even as this missive is typed? Have you been to Easter Island?             Yes?
Then I’m jealous. Do you use a tongue depressor as bookmark?
Are you reading this at an indecent hour by flashlight?
Plenty of scholarly ink has been spilt praising readers like                     yourself,
who risk radical dismantling, or being unmasked, by rappelling
deep into sentences. Your trigger warnings could be triggered             every
second, yet you forge on, mystic syllables detonating in your               head,
the metal-edged smell of monsoon-downpour on hot asphalt
raising steam in your imagination. You hold out for the phrase
with which the soul resonates, am I right? Reading, you’re                   seized
by tingly feelings, a rustling in the brain, winds that tickle your           scalp,
bubbles erupting from a blow hole at the back of your neck.
You forget the breathy woman talking softly on TV across the           lobby
(via TiVo you’ve saved her for later.) Birds outside are cracking           jokes
and cackling. Reader, smile to yourself, rock the cradle, kiss
everyone you wish to kiss, and please keep reading. It beats
fielding threatening phone calls for $15 an hour which is what
yours truly is meant to be doing right now, instead of                            speculating
on the strange and happy manifestations of, you, dear reader,            you.

Copyright © 2016 by Amy Gerstler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Amy Gerstler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Amy Gerstler

Amy Gerstler

Amy Gerstler is the author of several collection, including Bitter Angel (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1997), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

by this poet

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Rocket-shaped popsicles that dyed your lips blue
were popular when I was a kid. That era got labeled
“the space age” in honor of some longed-for,
supersonic, utopian future. Another food of my
youth was candy corn, mostly seen on Halloween.
With its striped triangular “kernels” made
of

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Tamed by starched collars or looped by the noose,
all hail the stem that holds up the frail cranial buttercup.
The neck throbs with dread of the guillotine's kiss, while
the silly, bracelet-craving wrists chafe in their handcuffs.
Your one and only neck, home to glottis, tonsils,
and many other highly
poem

May I venture to address you, vegetal friend?
A lettuce is no less than me, so I respect you,
though it’s also true I may make a salad of you,
later. That’s how we humans roll. Our species
is blowing it, bigtime, as you no doubt know,
dependent as you are on water and soil
we humans

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