Monday, 27 June 2022

American Life in Poetry: Undoing

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

More and more, poets, like everyone else, are confronted with the news and physical evidence of change in our weather patterns and landscapes, and we find ourselves trying to find language for this unsettling sense that the world is changing rapidly.

Khadijah Queen, in her poem, “Undoing,” has a haunting sense while driving through a snowstorm, that somehow our machines and our voracious appetite for fuel have something to do with this “undoing” of our world.

Like many of us, she is arrested by this knowing. Poetry does not always give us answers, instead, it helps us meditate on the questions, and this, sometimes, is enough.

Undoing
By Khadijah Queen

In winter traffic, fog of midday
shoves toward our machines—snow eclipses
the mountainscapes
I drive toward, keeping time against
the urge to quit moving. I refuse to not
know how not to, wrestling
out loud to music, as hovering me—automatic
engine, watching miles of sky on the fall—loves such
undoing, secretly, adding fuel to
what undoes the ozone, the endless nothing
manifested as sinkholes under permafrost.
Refusal, indecision—an arctic
undoing of us, interrupting cascades—
icy existences. I cannot drive through.


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 Khadijah Queen, “Undoing” from Poem-a-Day (Academy of American Poets, 2021). Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 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.

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