“The Raft” by Erica Reid

Erica Reid


I approach every poem I write
as if I’m going to save a life.
—Aaron Abeyta

It was no small feat to locate a phone book—but I did, 
and Angela Winston from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 
I have chosen your name at random and I have come 
to save your life. I recognize that it is a huge swing
on my part to assume that you need saving—but then
we are all drowning these days, are we not? Don’t you wake up
feeling you’ve reached your limit, that the worst must be past, 
only to discover you’re at the top of a spiritual Guggenheim,
a cool, white spiral of descent still awaiting you? Or 
perhaps you are bearing the betrayal better than I am, 
the dark regime we’ve invented, the great American 
miscarriage, the mockery this country makes of itself, 
the arc bending away from justice. Maybe you have a friend 
or sister to help you shoulder the burden of your complicity. 
It is possible you are thriving in 2021, in which case
please write me a poem—but if not, Angela Winston, 
if you’ll have me, I would like to write you a life raft—
if not to save you, at least to buoy you until a better poet
comes along. I inflate the raft with my breath, and it sounds
like this: (hff) No matter who you are, your very life
is rebellion, your love is a fist in the air. (hff) Your name
matters. It is right here in the White Pages, surrounded
by relatives and potential accomplices. (hff) You can begin 
today, Angela, the work you could not bring yourself to do 
yesterday. You have not missed your chance to pluck 
the shrapnel from your heart; there is time yet to (hff) carry
the sign, or throw the brick, or fashion the song 
from your fear, your hurt, your fury. And finally (hff), a secret 
about this raft: that it is built for two. It carries me 
as much as it carries you.

from Rattle #82, Winter 2023


Erica Reid: “Poetry and breath are intimately connected. Is it any great exaggeration to imagine a poem as a life raft, one we inflate with everything we have inside us?” (web)

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