(94) Life on Mars, Tracy K. Smith [bk 10 of 10 for May]

Enjoyed this overall. I need to read more poetry collections (I’m not sure if there’s a word that means explicitly what I mean– collection can be the collected works of [x], or an individual volume, written and published together with intention by the author. I like the continuance of the theme throughout variations. Possible words seem to be used indiscriminately–anthology, collection, volume…. )

The poem in which victims of hate-based violence write postcards to their attackers from national monuments. The flash of moving up the St. Louis Arch in a tiny metal capsule resonated with me, a moment of memory of being small and frightened and excited. The poem was dense and beautiful and complicated and ultimately hopeful, as the violent keeps getting smaller and smaller, less and less defining. I read this through the lens of the language around victim vs survivor, and even more, of that being the only identifier. We talk about this concept when I teach Saidiya Hartman’s Venus in Two Acts– the impossible necessity of seeing the personhood of the one slaughtered, who only appears in the public record on the worst day of their life, who had a full life before they were so cavalierly renamed Venus or Aphrodite or Belle.

“US & CO.” by Tracy K. Smith

We are here for what amounts to a few hours,

a day at most.

We feel around making sense of the terrain,

our own new limbs,

Bumping up against a herd of bodies

until one becomes home.

Moments sweep past. The grass bends

then learns again to stand.


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