The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 20-JAN 21

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DEC 20-JAN 21 Issue




This little begonia
is fierce enough to

To have a bearing

To press a point

and to be of some


This music gently
shakes itself

as if it had forgotten something.

Then it goes nowhere

It settles here and there
to repeat a motif

like a bee
visiting flowers.

It winds concerns
on a spindle.

To hear it
is to have a mother


The Test

Do you ever get bored while urinating?

Are your dreams full of impassioned speeches which later appear nonsensical?

Do you recognize the speakers?

Do you feel they are making a fool of you?

What is the true meaning of the word fool?

Is a wind blowing from heaven?

Do you believe your dreams are previews of the afterlife or world to come?

When you hear someone express a thought which you have also entertained, does this make
you feel a) reassured, b) bored or c) threatened?

Do you enjoy reflections? If so, did your mother mimic your facial expressions when you were
an infant?

Do floor lamps reflected in window panes
resemble distant settlements?

Have you been pre-approved?

Tell It to the Judge

I admit I skipped “Sixteen Relatable Moments”

When the flurry of wind-chimes stops
I listen.

I write, “Closing dimples
          of sweetness.”

When another human speaks,
I turn away.


I admit I confuse
with equivocation—

and that I do it on purpose,
as the leaves

nod and shake.


Medicine is “emasculated”
by statistics,
says Senator Paul.


Replacement Robin
will be destroyed
by Original Robin
unless Replacement Batman
(Dick Smith)
is willing to step in.


“As for we who love to be astonished,”

to attract a female
the lyre bird
mimics a chain saw.


Once established,
a thing

is a fact,
and a fact

is an item,
an object

of pity.


For the yellow slime mold,
on the other hand,

the map is the territory,
and the territory

is a body
of pulsing, fractal veins,

inquisitive causeways.

For the slime mold,
the map

is a stomach
and a brain.


I dreamed a family drama—
a kind of pyramid scheme--
three generations of messiahs,
an old man, his son
and a stolen baby
who had to be regularly replaced
in secret.

The son was a wastrel, some
comic relief.

Then the flowers at the window
got bigger, nearer

more engrossing.

That was “all I ever wanted,”
I tried to explain.


Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout’s most recent book is Finalists (Wesleyan 2022) about which David Woo, writing for the Poetry Foundation, says it “emanates the radiant astonishment of living thought.” Her 2018 book, Wobble, was a finalist for the National Book Award that year. Her other books with Wesleyan include Partly: New and Selected Poems, Just Saying, Money Shot and Versed. In 2010 Versed won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and The National Book Critics Circle Award.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 20-JAN 21

All Issues