This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Rusty Morrison




you mean to answer the husband honestly, but the plastic wrapper won’t give;  at the beginning of any sacred rite the herald

commands silence; 

you mean to offer something unwrapped, a backward step, even a stumble needn’t see itself as weak;  kick your refuse into the corners you harbor until you reach the last page and

still no story; 

you want refuse to need no specific color to be recognized, no previously indexed name;  

the fly is back

in your kitchen again;  try to remember something no one else knows, a short preface that cost-cutting editors left out of later editions;  you mean to

speak outside roles,

wife, owner, miser;  a wrapper, when it makes a noise, it’s like italics talking;  any light on plastic might be shrine’s light;  rapt;  you had a use

for shadow once;  

have you forgotten how to pray;  the neighbor bought a new car, the neighbor lost control of her legs; 

some people scour

under the rim of the toilet bowl;  some people close your bathroom door then look;  a plastic wrapping may be inanimate but possesses entirely its

diminished life; 

the man sat down beside you at the bus stop, cupped his large hand around your small breast, released it, and walked away;  a herald

uses silence

to focus an initiate outside the temporal, so as to set the surface plastic into motion;  to answer a husband, you’d

have to hear him;  

something your dead mother wouldn’t say;  she was terrible at humor;  but you could start now, teaching her;  the refrigerator is humming, taller for its

lack of sequence


Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).