Sandra Newton, “Poetry Reading”

Keep your voice steady and strong
Show your adherence to the objective correlative
With a studied stoniness
And when you look up from your words
Swimming like slippery eels on the page
Stare with assertion that
You alone know what it’s all about.


But your eyes threaten tears
When the words committed to paper
Suddenly jump from the page to your mouth
To the charged air
To the strangers watching you
And your voice breaks
Like a wall built of sand
The particles falling steadily like
A broken sky.


Afterward it seems
The women have heard and easily echo
Some of your words that are shared
As if they were their own
And the men remark on what they liked
Having jotted down some phrases
As if they were clues to understanding women.


And you yourself realize that
Those words chose you
Plucking you from a whirlwind
And filling your mouth
With their magic
For which you can now be

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