This Is Not a Poem

by Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates

in which the poet discovers
delicate white-parched bones
of a small creature
on a Great Lake shore
or the desiccated remains
of cruder roadkill
beside the rushing highway.

Nor is it a poem in which
a cracked mirror yields
a startled face,
or sere grasses hiss-
ing like consonants
in a foreign language.
Family photo album
filled with yearning
strangers long deceased,
closet of beautiful
clothes of the dead.
Attic trunk, stone well,
or metonymic moon
time-travelling for wisdom
in the Paleolithic
age, in the Middle Kingdom
or Genesis
or the time of Bash?. . . .

Instead it is a slew
of words in search
of a container—
a sleek green stalk,
a transparent lung,
a single hair’s curl,
a cooing of vowels
like doves.

Last updated September 26, 2022