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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 13, 2017.
About this Poem 

“‘Rasp’ began as an attempt to articulate a sensory experience: the combination of the blur of heat in the air and the sound of wind moving through—across?—tall, dry grass. As I wrote, it struck me that the dry summer fields are broom-like, the grass wheat-colored and papery, so there’s a play on the idea of ‘windswept.’ The air seems to have so much body and texture in the heat, as if it has a surface that can be seen, felt, even broken.”
—Maggie Smith

Rasp

The heat rises in distorted gold
              waves around fire
                            but without fire,
              shimmering, twisting

anything seen through it.
              The heat rises, rasping
                            the air it rises through,
              scuffing the surface,

if the air has a surface.
              The tall summer
                            field is the keeper
              of secrets. Lie down

and forget your body, forgive
              your body its bad cradle,
                            its brokenness.
              Lie down and listen

to the rasp, to heat sweep
              the pale, dry grass as if
                            it were your own
              breathing, as if the field

you’ve pressed your shape into
              is a broom in reverse,
                            a broom being
              swept by the wind.

Copyright © 2017 by Maggie Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Maggie Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith is the author of The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015), winner of the 2012 Dorset prize and a 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award, and Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005). 

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I must have missed the last train out of this gray city.
I’m scrolling the radio through shhhhh. The streetlamps

fill with light, right on time, but no one is pouring it in.
Twentieth Century, you’re gone. You’re tucked into

a sleeping car, rolling to god-knows-where, and I’m

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I must have just missed a parade—
horse droppings and hard candy
in the road, miniature American
flags staked into the grass, plastic
chairs lining the curb down this

two-lane highway, 36 in the open
country, briefly Main Street in town.
When I was small, I sat on a curb

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En la tierra del olvido, donde de nada nadie se acuerda…

In the land where all is forgotten, where no one remembers anything,
birds cut off their beaks to share your sorrow, Little Torn Shoe.
Twice of half a moon throbbed,