This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a new poem by Graham Foust. 



The fraught way the thinking body 
eats into its clear need
to fail with thoughts of tomorrow’s
not proof of existence.
That said, the facts of failure are.
This is where I tell you 
I don’t fear my disappearing,
but only being here
dying, and not remembering 
any of anything—
going once, going, and that’s it.
Write something poem-like
in my cremains with your finger,
a vague line you’d like, like
For now, though, sit with me,
I’d like to give you this bookmark,
news from years ago left between 
two pages of a tome
about Massachusetts plant life
(or placed there with much care—
who am I to say, as I’d’ve
been not quite five years old
at the time, and not compelled by
my state or its flora):



             Stars Not Where They Seemed or
             Were Calculated to be but
             Nobody Need Worry.

The sky the sky in theory, jest,
I struggle to be glad,
and in the other other hand, 
your poem for no good
reason, in itself confounded—
skip past the end: you’ll find 
I die and do many dead things—
it makes living waver. 
Ahead of day’s informations,
you say every sentence
both warily and carelessly,
as one might grip a fish
that one has planned to gut and eat.
Their first designs feel right,
but somehow there isn’t enough
noncrying in their sounds,
so you mouth on as if talking
were not its own drawback,
which it is when done the wrong way
or when done very well.
I’ve coughed the halves of Monday’s pills
from the spoon of my hand.
Red sky on bad TV tonight
on furniture, on skin,
I’ll remember this like it was
yesterday somewhere else,
like I was another woman
who’d done time in a park
where pink repeating flowers were
birthed at the crowd and were
transferable from brain to brain
as patched contrivances.
(She liked Old Fitzgerald bourbon
and was legally blind;
I fingered insects dead as beads
as they occurred to her.)
Heavy now, I barely feel it,
and there are rumors that
I’ll hold this posture, the loose sense,  
in other words, that dreams—
rid of texture, as whatever
is mirrored on water—
begin and end as they’re needed.
Put yet another way,
consciousness’s heel on thought’s wing—
one doesn’t learn it’s there
until it’s made its way elsewhere,
forever not knowledge 
and certainly never a thing.
All the world’s a warning;
it just goes away to show you.
I can’t wish to have done 
something the way I’ve just done it,
and rain, by complaining,
will now be made a fallacy.
I’m not allowed to stop
even its least intense grievance
that the sun’s relentless
or that it’s preparing to be.
Go ahead, compare death
to rest one more time—it can’t hurt.
I have hours still to think,
but there’s a trouble under mind,
some combination of
irrational variety,
interest, and faint alarm.
About to be unfeasible,
an acrobat of ash, 
I am become how I’m ending:
slowly; it becomes me,
this negligent triumph like sleep.


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).