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“The growing list of human-caused extinctions weighs heavily in my thinking. Also, the span of any one of our lives–eyelash thin, a cosmic parenthesis, really…and yet, such insistence on divisiveness, on wall-making. Attentiveness might let us move from fact into narrative; of course, enacted desires have consequences. What are our consolations?”
Katrina Roberts

Want

A man walks into a 
museum in Paris, the Museum
of Natural History, to saw
 
a tusk off an elephant-
skeleton centuries-older than  
he’ll ever be, becoming

in those early morning hours  
part of a derelict and
inglorious human history,
 
while swallows darn the air
in loops, their glinting wings  
an origami of hushed folds

only glimpsed by one vigilant 
girl, framed as she is within
a pane of glass, the door of her

heart opening onto a filigreed
balcony that keeps her  
suspended, an unlikely wish

about someone not coming
back. A man walks. A man
walks into a bar. “Whaddya

want?” Dusty continent
of desire. Majesty left as ragged
meat in heaps for hyenas

“laughing” in heat. Who can look
away? A man sets rough
elbows heavy on the lip

of zinc, thumbs each cheekbone
so his pointers steeple to catch
his brow, shuts eyes, heaves a sigh

then slumps to rest an unshaven cheek
against the cool, unquestioning
bar, as though to sink

into what’s most elemental. What’s
“natural” about any man
making his way alone

through empty Left Bank streets
carrying not a lovely burnished box
of watercolor paints in uniform

lozenge-cakes but a chainsaw? 
The wheeling sky sees all
while sleepers sleep, still

dreaming in languages long lost
when day breaks. The pinking sky
sees all, but rarely speaks

though someone more Romantic
might say it weeps. And the sleepless
girl, orphaned by light, the bright

tusk of her hopes. The joke
no joke, no punch-
line, but a gut-punch in plain sight.
 

Copyright © 2015 by Katrina Roberts. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 28, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Katrina Roberts. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 28, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Katrina Roberts

Katrina Roberts

Katrina Roberts received her AB from Harvard University, where she studied with Seamus Heaney, and her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she studied with Jorie Graham.

by this poet

poem

If “truth is a fire,” as Klimt scrawled on a sketch for his
painting Nuda Veritas, “and to speak truth means to shine and
to burn,” then I’m a spent firework, blown-open, hollow, grime-
smeared and left for a wandering child—to pick from
hardened sand, or to wash out to sea. I’m so

2
poem

Tracery

Not nostalgia but the bluer salt of longing, not sentiment but the smutted sky raining bitter sediment, not our winding blunder down into that wound, not the ash-riddled grotto nor the blood-orange blown-open

Not the mineral rash’s voice dubbed across the final unspooling reel,