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About this Poem 

“Last winter while out for a walk I noticed in the alley behind the bakery at the end of my street some indecipherable graffiti. It was enough to get me geared up, since I couldn’t decipher whether it read ‘hope’ or, possibly, ‘nope.’ That, and I am super driven by sweet treats and so I’m always visiting that bakery. From there, with Keats and meteors and bouts of puzzlement, this poem just sort of wandered in.”
—Christopher Salerno

Is It Better Where You Are?

The bakery’s graffiti either spells HOPE
or NOPE. But hope and results
are different, said Fanny Brawne to her Keats
voiding his unreasonable lung.
Getting off the medicine
completely means light again
blinking to light. Device returned
to its factory settings. The complete black
of before the meteor shower
above the bakery. If you lose the smell
of leather, lemon, or rose,
studies show you will fail at being,
like Keats. I keep watching the same meteor
shower videos on YouTube
where awe is always a question of scale.
Night can be moths or weather, pulled in the dark.
The bakery, now, is beginning to close.
My arrhythmic heart
aches for the kind of dramatic arc
one can’t shop for. Or else to lease
what’s real for a while—
is this the good kind of consumption?
I wonder over the weight
of meaning. The difference between
hull and seed. The sugary
donut and its graceful hole. The greasy
bags that everyone leaves
in the alley leading to my door.
These scraps I work at like a crow.

Copyright © 2015 by Christopher Salerno. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 2, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Christopher Salerno. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 2, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Christopher Salerno

Christopher Salerno

Christopher Salerno is the author of Sun & Urn (University of Georgia Press, 2017), winner of the Georgia Poetry Prize. He lives in Caldwell, New Jersey.

by this poet


It’s summer here so soda pop and blue
jeans in the trees. I am peeling
my sunburn on a bus bound for Saratoga
Springs where I will lob my father’s
ashes on the line where the racehorses
finish one at a time, and as they do,
the mist of a million particles
of ash in the air, all


It is important to face the rear of the train
as it leaves the republic. Not that all
departing is yearning. First love is
a factory. We sleep in a bed that had once
been a tree. Nothing is forgot.
Yet facts, over time, lose their charm,
warned a dying

You are a nobody
until another man leaves
a note under your wiper:
I like your hair, clothes, car—call me!
Late May, I brush pink
Crepe Myrtle blossoms
from the hood of my car.
Again spring factors
into our fever. Would this
affair leave any room for error?