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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, October 12, 2017.
About this Poem 
“A recent ambition of mine has been to use poems as a means to look at things that are very hard—sometimes excruciating—to see. This poem links that ambition to another use of poems as well: to be able to address someone now gone.”
—Jennifer Grotz
 

Staring into the Sun

What had been treacherous the first time 
had become second nature, releasing 
the emergency brake, then rolling backwards 
in little bursts, braking the whole way down
the long steep drive. Back then 
we lived on the top of a hill.
 
I was leaving—the thing we both knew 
and didn’t speak of all summer. While you 
were at work, I built a brown skyline of boxes, 
sealed them with a roll of tape 
that made an incessant ripping sound.
We were cheerful at dinner and unusually kind.
At night we slept under a single sheet,
our bodies a furnace if curled together.
 
It was July. I could feel my pupils contract
when I went outside. Back then I thought only about 
how you wouldn’t come with me. 
Now I consider what it took for you to help me go. 
On that last day. When I stood
in a wrinkled dress with aching arms.
When there was only your mouth at my ear 
whispering to get in the truck, then wait 
until I was calm enough to turn the key. 
 
Only then did we know. How it felt 
to have loved to the end, and then past the very end.
 
What did you do, left up there in the empty house?
I don’t know why. I 
don’t know how we keep living 
in a world that never explains why. 
 

Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Grotz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Grotz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jennifer Grotz

Jennifer Grotz

Jennifer Grotz is the author of Window Left Open (Graywolf Press, 2016). She teaches at the University of Rochester and lives in Rochester, New York.

by this poet

poem

The lettering on the shop window in which
you catch a glimpse of yourself is in Polish.

Behind you a man quickly walks by, nearly shouting
into his cell phone. Then a woman

at a dreamier pace, carrying a just-bought bouquet
upside-down. All on a street where pickpockets abound

along

2
poem
Driving alone at night, the world’s pitch, black velvet 
stapled occasionally by red tail lights
on the opposite highway but otherwise mild 
panic when the eyes’ habitual check 
produces nothing at all in the rearview mirror,
a black blank, now nothing exists 
but the dotted white lines of the road, 
and the car
poem
        "When your eyes have done their part, 
        Thought must length it in the heart."
           —Samuel Daniel

 
. . . Thought lengths it, pulls 
an invisible world through 
a needle's eye 
one detail at a time,

beginning with 
the glint of blond down 
on his knuckle as he