Poems and Reflection on Poems


Slight pain post-doing yoga feel contours of body otherwise less assured more slightly felt under clothes. Muscle, remember being on way to yoga in college asked out by jerk does not negate, pain doesn’t remind cannot do what could. Feels same: means still touching toes raising leg, up behind afterward wallow like now. Feel now without asked out, without getting credit for yoga elective. Live up to yoga paraphernalia: mat yoga bag small sewn-on hearts on stalks pain color not wanted picked out, wanted too. Felt should not have to. Do not now have to. Physical past felt wanted, was muscular pain not in spite.


Know now personal
dark red nail polish
nail polish remover linoleum floor
hours stained think floor think floor
now inaccessible
husband mother husband
on speakerphone quiet say
I have nothing to say
I am emotionally spent.
Sit here by phone on couch
not talk make wait
have feeling must finish
I too must wait
feel pleasure cannot deal others
I too.

More Filled

Eye water at inner corner slightly less
tired did not realize been thinking
where can I still? Look down at clothes
compare their color with those
see at church and church means more
is it that God is now more?
Certain experiences also are more: center-filled
cupcakes and sparse woods where make out deer
family of three. Text messages
more filled than before emojis of stardust, cat with its
tongue sticking out makes remember
niece has not yet contained her
tongue rest of life resting outside I will
stay at this level that’s seeing.

This Day

What does not stay prefer to eat. This day
lemon poppyseed bread made from box
Betty Crocker whole time I stopped
each second could take new bite they
were different the firm of the sides may
not have been burnt but the firm of the top
contributed more. Muffin wetness did not
make stay nor did lemon frosting they
give as packet in case you need more
stimulation wish each sensation had
more stimulation need for distinct
components crack poppyseed for
anise less muffin new bite there is an-
other: you don’t have to find where to sink.

Hole Making

Wanting from church makes hole expand into larger life asks something. Hole is hope of Emily Dickinson, believed hope poem meant hope did not come. Yellow-feathered bird did not peck. Think now crumb hope did not take away. Relief at not asked, new hole is not there. Make self go to church does not ask me to go. Go again, hope something will ask. Something that asks is a contrary force to wanting to be in this church that is asked.

The reason she started looking at objects around her in her apartment was to justify her sense of the objects’ necessity. Because living alone in her apartment in Iowa, it seemed that she did not have much beyond these few objects she’d brought. Because she had to write poems and poems should express urgency, she had to make what she had necessary.

Hence, the hot pink bag with sewn-on hearts which held her yoga mat, which was pink camo. The color would have been embarrassing except the hot pink was not about her but about the yoga bag, or her doing yoga in college back when she bought it and by extension today. She had signed up for yoga as an elective, with her best friend from her dorm. Doing yoga made her see her body in outline as she walked around. The pink of the bag and the act of sewing made her think of being pricked to feel picked.

There could therefore be pleasure in pain when pain was hot pink. But what about when, still feeling worthless in Iowa, she spilled dark red nail polish on the floor of the bathroom, as later, she would spill wine on the expensive-looking footstool of Harry Styles, who edited the Iowa Review? When she spilled the nail polish, she shut everyone out who was not her and became scrubbing. She called others to tell them to be quiet. This gave her the feeling of having more than something to do and to feel, like yoga or getting asked out. She had an additional layer of saying, be quiet, be quiet.

This was upsetting. She did not want only to express herself in the limited ways her body and then her pain afforded. Feeling generally worn down after cancelling out her subjectivity in these ways, her mind started to soften. She became capable again of responding to church, kindness in the form of emojis sent by her friend, and the stuck-out tongue of her niece to which she ascribed a similar kindness. After what she had been doing to her mind, buying a cupcake or seeing a deer started to register as self-care.

Therefore she bought herself a box of lemon poppy seed quick bread to make and eat by herself and decided she would write herself a small song, a sonnet. The last word of each line was not very dramatic, but neither was the experience, so it was not really like a sonnet, not really like she was enjoying the food. But she wanted to deeply.

She wanted also literature, like Emily Dickinson. Isn’t that after all why she was in Iowa, looking around at these objects for poems? All she could handle was the small yellow one she had memorized. The poem about what she had hoped for, which did not come. Or did it? She did feel that this was doing something new to her mind, being here. Emily Dickinson had never before seemed so small, like a piece of lemon poppy seed quick bead. She realized she – herself or maybe Emily Dickinson— was not a mind, but a person who had the need for a simple object to open and want her and ask something.

[set 2]

Chicken Part

For gleaming garden read gleaming chicken
rain that gleams reveals means
the garden can be accessed eaten.

Chicken over garden: believe in given.
Read them count as thinking.
Been trying. Present body
lies in rumpled sheet, comforter
outside is cold and wet

not mustered. Now as chicken gleams
indecorous, legs drawn up to
body parted sealed. Warms something in
mind, chicken can
work, gleaning: living

from not living, flesh from bone.

Jack Frost

Streets are flowered as in sprinkled
petals of jack frost on side of them
like pieces of cereal miniature flowers
not how petals normally. Are grown
for purpose that each fallen off
is little whole.

That when we die.
And that the whole is something we
want so reproduced
from real the little, floral skies.

Little are believable
who we were as children little versions
somewhere else, like somewhere is
a boy I knew named Jack
would pink from cold
had an Australian accent somehow was

the buttered sprinkled bread
he said is eaten in Australia
by his mother handed out
they show how they are made:
his mother, look
brings us this day: we ate

the “fairy bread.”
Was part of us still is,
we are brought in pieces spread 
and those are what is
blue against the street like bigger causes.

Red Grow

Why not jay
for blue-? Jay wrong evokes sky
that is now, now Iowa where
red bird holds against blue.
Holds red seems clue
harder to breathe leads eye
out window as caw
that there. Is red. My teacher said, Amanda?
as Amander window as winder, Georgia,
that there. Closer to sea
not blue in nature but red as in politics, cow
wear pattern for tea.
Free chicken descend as crow
one of us says ouch elbow
where breaded keeps crowded, want grow.

Teach, Hear

Children cannot be religious I hear them sing Mary, sanctuary
 that is not what they say but prepare me. Prefer hearing Mary

but also prepare me start to imagine, look
down across waist what could be in: Mary is not the word that bears

is not what they’re meaning
what matters is not what is said but purity meaning
how it can look cold. Learn meaning from not being


One student looks over her own words I have re-written. Mary looks over brood
after just having Jesus, knows meaning.
Look over my own words less possessed, don’t know their meaning
or know it too well:
knowing is how can fix, a calling.


Have not asked students if they are religious

my religion is preference I share, with students in context
of teaching author I share. Want to take students

to church where she prayed from which I believe,
one of few places I know how to access where female means sitting


No you are not private person are teaching, religion
must be routed through recent

changes the way I think about Mary
changes but cannot stop hearing, so she is regarded by anyone
says her

becomes female student of purely receiving
name once you hear she cannot be


Must teach of what hear, teacher of passive imparting
in teacher hear mother
you are stained is what means once to see word
is stained with the hearing and once to be teacher is stained
you look at person she is your student, teaching her that
until she is teacher of passive imparting

say Mary in tone, to teach how to picture.

Reading “gleaming chicken” instead of “gleaming garden” in a book of poems by Jorie Graham made Amanda feel as if she were learning to read and more fundamentally that she was learning what objects there are in the world. And she and others were in such a way that part of learning the objects was learning the words. And she and others also were in such a way that they couldn’t stop learning a word because other words that are nearby change it. Or the notes or chords if you are the kind of person who learned music.

But more vivid than the words in poems are the words for a new object, like “Jack Frost” or “forget-me-nots” for little blue flowers that float over thin-to-invisible stems in the neighborhood where she was living that summer, in Boulder, Colorado. Or the word “Fairy Bread,” which she learned in first grade. She also learned what it could mean for a person to be from Australia. The fairy bread would never fade because each time you put the sprinkles on the bread, they would be arranged and colored differently. Recently, she “liked” and was even tempted to re-tweet a post on Twitter of the top of a Funfetti cake, which it is some people’s nature to stare at.

But it was also the case that you could learn more about a certain place than you wanted. Such a place was more a single color, which the American two-party political system suggested was red. This was also the color of the writing on bags from Chick-fil-A. You didn’t want to learn so exclusively about that one color for such a long time. But when she saw a cardinal for the first time all summer, after moving from Colorado back to Iowa City for the semester, she had to admit that red had been something she missed. She missed the part of life when she had been forced to be formed, forced to learn in that comforting, limited way.

The value of such limitation is a lesson she would integrate into her teaching. Because she was teaching creative writing at Iowa, she was mostly teaching people who were in many ways like herself, young women trained in religion. She would teach, among other things, the beautiful, limited thing it could mean to be what they were. She would set them along the path of picturing the same few things with built-in relevance, the central one—for her more so than for them—being Mary. This is how to live, for her, in Iowa, which was not Colorado or Maryland.

Amanda Auerbach

Amanda Auerbach

Amanda Auerbach is a literary critic and poet. Her book of poems What Need Have We For Such as We was published by C&R Press in 2019, and her poems have also appeared in the Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Conjunctions, and Fence. She teaches literature and creative writing at Catholic University.
Amanda Auerbach

Also by Amanda Auerbach (see all)

Author: Amanda Auerbach

Amanda Auerbach is a literary critic and poet. Her book of poems What Need Have We For Such as We was published by C&R Press in 2019, and her poems have also appeared in the Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Conjunctions, and Fence. She teaches literature and creative writing at Catholic University.