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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, October 24, 2016.
About this Poem 

“The pantoum ‘Descent of the Composer’ seeks to interrogate the uncertain emotional landscape of an addict in recovery. The repetitious nature of the form suggests relapse, but the subtle shifts in diction and syntax welcome possibility.”
—Airea D. Matthews

Descent of the Composer

When I mention the ravages of now, I mean to say, then.
I mean to say the rough-hewn edges of time and space,
a continuum that folds back on itself in furtive attempts
to witness what was, what is, and what will be. But what

I actually mean is that time and space have rough-hewn edges.
Do I know this for sure? No, I’m no astrophysicist. I have yet
to witness what was, what is, and what will be. But what
I do know, I know well: bodies defying spatial constraint.

Do I know this for sure? No, I’m no scientist. I have yet
to prove that defiant bodies even exist as a theory; I offer
what I know. I know damn well my body craves the past tense,
a planet in chronic retrograde, searching for sun’s shadow.

As proof that defiant bodies exist in theory, I even offer
what key evidence I have: my life and Mercury’s swift orbits, or
two planets in chronic retrograde, searching for sun’s shadow.
Which is to say, two objects willfully disappearing from present         view.

Perhaps life is nothing more than swift solar orbits, or dual
folds along a continuum that collapse the end and the                          beginning,
which implies people can move in reverse, will their own                    vanishing;
or at least relive the ravages of then—right here, right now.

Copyright © 2016 by Airea D. Matthews. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 24, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Airea D. Matthews. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 24, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Photo credit: Kahn Santori Davison

Airea D. Matthews

Airea D. Matthews is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection simulacra (Yale University Press, 2017), selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets.

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I left our window open most nights.  A man with winged ankles would visit while you slept. He'd ask about my doings, how the syrah finished, noticed the dimple on my chin when I smiled, touched the thick swell of my waist, lightly. When the wind whistled like the Northeast Corridor, he'd tongue the small of my back