The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 21-JAN 22

All Issues
DEC 21-JAN 22 Issue


Source Code


In that cave, each reverberation
created a semblance
in which the echoes
began to hear themselves


the rumble of a nearby lawn mower
would make her sex
give a ping.


Rapid eye movement.
The menace
behind sudden motion;
for a person
the meaning.


You stop to catch your breath,
dizzy, on the crowded trail,
so tired you
let the Lord in, oops!
in the form of
a fern-like conifer
undulating slowly,
each limb
drawing its own
lazy circle
in the air
from below.
Don’t worry.
won’t stay.
But remember your breath’s
not your own.


“Force-posture in place.”

That’s not funny!

Small dogs yip
after an ice-cream truck
circling slowly
in the asphalt melting heat.

Sasha says,
“Let’s just pretend
to be Sasha and Renee.”

No one is someone
in a dream, yet

dreams are full
of urgency.

I say,
a paradox
is like a knot;

a knot is like
a roundelay.

Picture This

Particles, whether long or short-lived,
arise from “a permanent
traveling disturbance
in a quantum field.”

But we all know that
when a disturbance
is permanent,
it no longer disturbs.

Picture a tent city.


One way to think about it
is as a kind of tension
rippling through space.

We know how tension
distributes itself
in a body, now
behind the eyelids,
now in the shoulders,

how it can be moved
but not removed

so that, when we suck
on our knuckles,
our neck muscles
can relax



Why so tense,
we might wonder.

Did God yell “Hey!”
just once

as if testing
the acoustics?

In Passing

Perfumes, teas, and wines
are ranked
on their complexity.

People appreciate
a cryptic smile
in a painting.

between knowing best
and unraveling,
you look incredulous.


Now the small cloud
with the head

of a hippopotamus
has aplomb,

sitting just beneath
its shapeless gray



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 21-JAN 22

All Issues