poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, December 1, 2015.
About this Poem 

“It’s funny what good fortune does in the wrong mind! I mean, I try to catch myself when I’m giving my own good luck short shrift. The poem falls in that category of my preoccupation in poems (and not in poems) with the relativity of sorrow, and how to find a place for it. I’m thinking of the stellar, oft-cited poem by Jack Gilbert, ‘A Brief for the Defense,’ in which (to be crassly reductive) he talks about the need to genuinely praise delight so that the depth of real suffering has its own integrity. How does the luxury of serene beauty—a commodity so out of reach for so many—sometimes serve as a backdrop for our self-destructive, fortune-destructive tendencies? And how can we manipulate that? How can we interpret our contextual surroundings in order to best respect the richness of what we have in the world and in ourselves? And then, how to complain?”
Jessica Greenbaum

A Nearly Perfect Morning

It was a nearly perfect morning—bucolic, pastoral—
so I found myself cataloguing my past humiliations.
Really, there was no reason for it! I might as well have
looked for an ant hill to lie down on in a meadow
of goldenrod. I can’t explain it but perhaps I thought
that with the rising sun as my witness, with the catbirds
crows, and whizzing hummingbirds my soundtrack
that I could ameliorate them, neutralize their charges
against me by holding them up to the woods now in wait
for the light to balance on their individual leaves, on
the absorbing vastness of my fortune. The concentric rings
of the spider web have the wiry shine of guitar strings
there’s been so little wind it seems the trees have not
yet shook themselves awake, but we are moving around
this light at such a pace that by now the sun is nested
in the crook of two thin branches that could not hold
anything else. I was barely up to the third count
against my integrity when the whole lake turned white
but I decided it was not aghast, just trying to erase.

Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Greenbaum. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Greenbaum. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jessica Greenbaum

Jessica Greenbaum

Jessica Greenbaum is the author of The Two Yvonnes, (Princeton University Press, 2012). She teaches inside and outside academia, most recently through Brooklyn Poets and the World Trade Center Health Program for first responders at New York University’s medical center. 

by this poet


Only through a disaster or a renovation
does the entire brick side of a house come down
and in this case the workmen threw stoves and refrigerators
out the windows, letting them bounce
off the fire escapes into the little Brooklyn yard.
And I wouldn’t presume to say
they did it