Two Poems, by Rae Armantrout
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access

Crossing the Sea of Reeds, by Adrian Ghenie, from Adrian Ghenie: Paintings 2014–19, which was published in June by Hatje Cantz © The artist


think back

Say an idea is math
without numbers.

For instance, you could say
that an idea
distorts consciousness
as a massive object
distorts space.

Such distortion
is sometimes known
as attraction.

It pulls
a debris field
into orbit

(or a halo of microplastics).

You slip
from one thought
to the next
as a snake
sloughs off old skin.

Thinking back
is less reliable
than you might think.


the book


The poet uses enjambment
so that the reader
has the constant
small pleasure
of thinking, “Oh, that
makes sense,
after all.”

So that the reader
and writer
share mixed feelings—
shame at falling
for this easy trick
and the satisfaction
of catching one’s


as one hugs oneself
in bed before
submitting to sleep.


God doesn’t skim
to get to the good
part. This

is the first mystery
of God.
He is in no hurry

to meet his own

For millennia, he sets
sea scorpion
against scorpion,

in their clunky armor,
brandishing their erect

Forever is nothing.

When he does see someone
looking back,
he screams,

“Stop imitating me!”