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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 22, 2016.
About this Poem 

“The inspiration for this poem came from something my friend told me about her grown daughter’s creative projects, to which I added fantasies of my own. I think the utopian impulse is generated partly by distress at the world as it is, and partly by something childish (in my case girlish) or even infantile in us, some memory of a time when everything was okay. Of course, the poem says you can’t get there from here—though it can seem so close.”
—Alicia Ostriker

Utopian

My neighbor’s daughter has created a city
you cannot see
on an island to which you cannot swim
ruled by a noble princess and her athletic consort
all the buildings are glass so that lies are impossible
beneath the city they have buried certain words
which can never be spoken again
chiefly the word divorce which is eaten by maggots
when it rains you hear chimes
rabbits race through its suburbs
the name of the city is one you can almost pronounce

Copyright © 2016 by Alicia Ostriker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 22, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Alicia Ostriker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 22, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Alicia Ostriker

Alicia Ostriker

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937, Alicia Ostriker has been a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. She currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
It’s not that the old are wise
But that we thirst for the wisdom

we had at twenty
when we understood everything

when our brains bubbled
with tingling insights

percolating up from
our brilliant genitals

when our music rang like a global siege
shooting down all the lies in the world

oh then we knew the truth
2
poem

As if there could be a world
Of absolute innocence
In which we forget ourselves

The owners throw sticks
And half-bald tennis balls
Toward the surf
And the happy dogs leap after them
As if catapulted—

Black dogs, tan dogs,
Tubes of glorious muscle—

Pursuing

poem

                    for Frank O’Hara

Frank, we have become an urban species
     at this moment many millions of humans are
          standing on some corner waiting like me

for a signal permitting us to go,
     a signal depicting a small pale pedestrian
          to be