October 18, 2016

Rachel Custer


for D.T. and other lonely people

Yesterday I said the thing
I was trying to say

perfectly to myself. I am something
astounding, I am like the grand

canyon, I said, by which I meant
I sometimes feel hedged in

by those who would sweat in hot cars for days
just to stand and look at me. And people think

I am saying I am a spectacle, a wonder
surrounded by nothing

as huge as me, and people think I am
claiming majesty. People travel for days

to look at the most important canyon, which is to say

the biggest empty space. Sometimes
I might as well kick pea gravel over the side

rather than try to explain who I am
and wait until I hear it hit the ground.

What I am trying to say
in small, hard words that always fall away

from what I mean,
is I am not the canyon, the immense

perfection of its depth, I am more
the missing earth dispersed,

trying to feel whole, to believe
that God makes sometimes

by taking away.

Poets Respond
October 18, 2016

[download audio]


Rachel Custer: “Pretty much every news story right now is about Donald Trump. Except that they’re all negative, and this poem is not. Poetry can do so much, and one thing my partner and I were just talking about is the fact that these candidates are human beings, both of them. I try to imagine how it would feel to only hear myself derided and hated all day long.”