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Recorded for Poem-a-Day March 22, 2019.
About this Poem 

“I wrote this poem while walking down the street one night in midtown Manhattan. Being at the base of all those tall buildings somehow turned my imagination planetary. I think the poem shows just a few links in a chain of accidents: somebody hurts somebody else while trying to heal herself, somebody becomes an idol to others who don’t understand his particular hurt, and the atmosphere nods along acceptingly; the type of little chain that probably happens every day among children on playgrounds at recess.”
—Mikko Harvey

The Poem Grace Interrupted

There once was a planet who was both
sick and beautiful. Chemicals rode through her
that she did not put there.
Animals drowned in her eyeballs
that she did not put there—
animals she could not warn
against falling in because
she was of them, not
separable from them.
Define sick, the atmosphere asked.
So she tried: she made
a whale on fire
somehow still
swimming and alive.
See? she said. Like that,
kind of. But the atmosphere did
not understand this, so the planet progressed in her argument.
She talked about the skin
that snakes shed, about satellites that circled her
like suitors forever yet never
said a word.
She talked about the shyness
of large things, how a blueberry dominates
the tongue that it dies on.
She talked and talked and
the atmosphere started nodding—
you could call this
a revolution, or just therapy.
Meanwhile the whale spent the rest of his
life burning (etc., etc., he sang a few songs).
When he finally died
his body, continuing
to burn steadily, drifted down
to the ocean floor.
And although the planet
had long since forgotten him—he was merely one
of her many examples—he became
a kind of god in the eyes
of the fish that saw him as he fell. Or
not a god exactly, but at least something
inexplicable. Something strange and worth
briefly turning your face toward.

Copyright © 2019 by Mikko Harvey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Mikko Harvey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Mikko Harvey

Mikko Harvey

Mikko Harvey is the author of Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit (House of Anansi, 2018).