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Vetiver

Rad Mag Sam Kalda

The splash of rain against my windows, as wind lifts it from the park,

daffodils gleaming under street lamps,

morning light so full of softness and sounds—a wet cardinal, a distant ambulance— 

a blue hydrangea on the kitchen table,

everything posthumous-seeming,

as I read the newspaper in my bathrobe, 

without any fever, sweat, ache, nausea, exhaustion, cough, phlegm, or struggle to breathe.

Later, I stretch out on the bedroom floor and observe a vivid sky, with fluffy clouds,

like the uncut hairs around my ears that give me a less austere, Roman look. 

Do not think of the abyss, I say to myself, like St. Augustine before the city of god.

Soon the lilacs will begin their exhalations in green light, 

the lawn will roll out its plush carpet,

and the late-night sky will appear deeper, as swallows fly diagonally into it.

Once again, we’ll eat endives and ham, eggs every style, and peaches in red wine, forgetting confinement,

as the upright robins, six feet apart, tuk-tuk-tuk on the wire.

This poem appeared in the fall issue of Radcliffe Magazine.

Henri Cole was a 2014–2015 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute. He is the Josephine Olp Weeks Professor of Literature at Claremont McKenna College and the author of 10 collections of poetry, most recently Blizzard (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020), and a memoir, Orphic Paris (New York Review Books, 2018).


Reading by Henri Cole

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