American Life in Poetry: Runoff

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

It is hard to tell whether in 10 years readers will know what a “drop down menu” is, but that is the beauty and risk of poetry — to find poetry in the present vernacular, and to hope its accuracy and beauty justify its use.

Sidney Burris, in his poem, “Runoff,” is in hope, too. The promise of spring for him, is a metaphor for one of many functions of the imagination.

In this instance it is the capacity to believe in a better future by seeing it before it comes. I imagine that readers will get that part, long into the future.

By Sidney Burris

January’s drop-down menu
leaves everything to the imagination:
splotch the ice, splice the light,
remake the spirit…

Just get on with it,
doing what you have to do
with the gray palette that lies
to hand. The sun’s coming soon.

A future, then, of warmth and runoff,
and old faces surprised to see us.
A cache of love, I’d call it,
opened up, vernal, refreshed.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Sidney Burris, “Runoff” from What Light He Saw I Cannot Say, (LSU Press, 2021). Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.