This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Joshua Marie Wilkinson. 


Any Place I’d Wanted to Be

“It had been a long time since I’d gone any place I’d wanted to be.”

                                                                                —Ottessa Moshfegh

Snow on my sleeve, on my ear
in the car lights like so much

In the reverie, it’s a socked in playground
in Douglas, Alaska—near the miner’s
abandoned wood, a pit where went a Chevrolet
in the early 1970s. A beach slapped
with rained on waves.

The foghorn touches the trees, dripping,
where we walked back from the sand
to the path.

You told us not to come
say goodbye in Ljubljana
after we wrote you that night from Tucson.

Look at us back then: so much to want,
to war, to hold, to give in to get mired with.

Meanwhile, there’s Vallejo
shitting in the tulip bed
easing up your spine with a spider’s
thread of ejaculate.

Hart Crane dabbing the end
of his unlit cigarette against
his bottom lip under the moon.

But, what? Stars?

You want to say something sharp
and faultless?

Rake in the doxic’s ovation for being
what? Friendly and swell?

Say I did, until the newscaster’s
wet sneer cripples the season’s mood.

The moon’s a dog, a soiled fleck
of ash. A flower petal burned
by a candle.

Set the lit match next to the unlit one.
Let the fire make its wet leap
like you planned it.



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).