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On Sundays We Read Poetry

Each Sunday, I post a brief introduction to a collection of poetry I've been loving. I include one poem that I think really sings. No review. No need. If it's here, you'll know I recommend it. If you have one to recommend (yours or someone else's), send it along. I'll do my best to be here every Sunday.


Usually, I make the argument that a collection of poems is best served a piece at a time over several days or weeks. In the case of Clint Smith's Counting Descent, I have read it straight through more times than I can count. The poems in this collection accumulate, tightening and intensifying, peaking and relenting in perfect orchestration. It is no easy book. It is not pretty. It does not mince words. It is full of pain and anger and sadness. Today, too, is full of pain and anger and sadness. So, today, Counting Descent. Originally, I planned to give you "For the Boys Who Never Learned How to Swim." I had it all typed out even. But it hurt too damn much. There's hurt enough already here. Instead, I'll give you one that sings the hurt but still glitters with hope. The thing is: there's not one poem in this collection that doesn't sing. If you haven't been reading Clint Smith, you should be.

what the cathedral said to the black boy

come inside child

rest yourself

it's okay to want to be held

ain't we all just trying to be

some type of sanctuary for someone?

for every year we are not destroyed

do they not remind us what a miracle

it is to have lasted this long?

amid this plunder

amid all this wreckage

take a breath and call it prayer

take a step and call it living

what that ocean tell you child?

that they're frightened of you?

they fear you because they ain't

ready for your type of holy

close your eyes

those stained glass shadows

all we got is what we name ourselves

otherwise I am just a room

you are just a body

& we know how wrong that is

Still don't believe me? Here's the poet reading the title poem. Watch and then go order the book.


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