Rae Armantrout: Four new poems


                                                                                  for Ish Klein




We grade stories

and we reconcile accounts.


By night we binge

on The Walking Dead. 




"An actual electron

emits and swallows

its own photons

now and then." 




Confusing exchange

with use value

makes the word "own"

a hot mess.





When I'm alone

I pose


my question:


Why is one



always squared?






When I first lie down, trying to sleep, there's a lump of dread and hurt in my midsection. When did this thing form? Was it always there? I remember being young - that is, I remember places I lived and some of the things I did. I lived in an expensive, unheated apartment in San Francisco and sat around with my poet friends at readings and in bars. I had written maybe 20 poems. I thought I was near the center of something and could aim to embody it. That's enough to get a person going. 




            Vines pegged to stakes: 


            veins over bones,


            the beginning

            or end of






                                    Weed tops turned

                                    white frizz up,

                                    blow off, get

                                    carried away.




                                                            But the uncertainty

                                                            in her eyes,


                                                            the hesitant steps


                                                            as if she were making

                                                                                                                     some mistake






Phlegmatic and unbending,


Russell Crowe as Noah


teaches us


to hold the door


against “the desperate”


and “the many”


threatened by catastrophic


climate change –


worse than we’d guessed


and more immediate.




Are we stowaways?




Zipper fracture


involves simultaneous


stimulation of parallel


horizontal wells.




surfactant gel


has/has not been


adequately described



             RNA WORLD



The numbers speak for themselves.


"To repeat is to recognize."


"Do you copy?"




Here's one way to tell it.


Having arisen




you monitor


your thoughts


and varying


levels of discomfort,


then file a report -


now just a memory,


one eclipsing the last


and you


aren't even tired.


Or are you?


You grow another you -


a down-home,






whom you project


to cover your


[Rae Armantrout’s newest book, Itself, will be published in 2015 by Wesleyan University Press.  She has emerged in recent years as an essential contributor to a new & evolving American poetry, the force of the work in fulfillment of Lydia Davis’s earlier assessment: “In every line, every stanza of these brief and dense poems, Rae Armantrout’s powerful mix of scientific inquiry and social commentary, wit and strangeness, is profoundly stimulating. She changes the way one sees the world and hears language—every poem an explosion on the page in which her individuality shines through. Is the work funny? Absolutely. Moving? Yes. But beware—after reading Armantrout you will question everything, including what it means to be ‘funny’ and ‘moving.’” Previous postings on Poems & Poetics can be found here & here, as well as Marjorie Perloff’s essay “An Afterword for Rae Armantrout.” (J.R.)]