This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features an excerpt from a poem by Ali Power. 

from A Poem for Record Keepers


Dylan didn’t write all the lyrics on Desire

You ask what makes a poem.

The sun makes you sneeze.

Another coattail descends extraordinary stairs.

Put them in order.

Put them on top of me.

I am perfecting my organs.



Once there were three kinds of being(s). 

7 1 1 1 6 2 6.

Sometimes I write down a series of numbers.

Can I make the garden grow?

“You’re doing a beautiful job.”

Like oars.

There’s a postcard coming from Exactly What I Mean.



Someday we’ll oppose each other in the championship game.

Old women of Sunday.

February on the houses.

Still another delicate head.

You were looking at everyone.

But you wanted everyone to look at you.

Hurry up.



There is GPS.

There is Florida.

There is pinecone.

There is trampoline.

There is olive oil. 

There is getting to know you.

There is never getting to know all about you.



“Cut your losses,” said the Viking.

This is supposed to be fun.

But then your neighbor & her friend invite themselves in.

Ask if we’re having a party (are terrible dancers).

Improvisers in mirage.

They whistle.

Write that down.



Don’t be so dumb.

Offspring of autobiography.

Asking for sex.

After we get books we’ll get accents.

Behave badly.

In blouses.

Before boarding the atmosphere.



“Why does someone have to die?”

Sportscasters and academics are all alike. 

They know what they’re saying.

But they’re not saying anything.

Disaster-piece theater.

In the diabetic sock section.

I wrote this for you.


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).