From “Call Us What We Carry”

What we name occasional poetry—verse written for or about an occasion, typically ceremonial—reminds us that each one poems have events, or ought to. Good poems seize a second and maintain it. In an period as pressing as ours, many poems attempt for timelessness exactly by being well timed. Poetry can protect the fleeting current, encircle the previous, and assist envision various futures.

When Amanda Gorman learn her poem “The Hill We Climb” on the 2021 U.S. Presidential Inauguration, she grew to become each the heir of an extended custom and a herald of one thing new. Her verse, as vibrant and stylish as her yellow coat in opposition to the chilly, illuminated the creativeness in addition to the event, confirming her as a worthy successor to a number of different Black girls inaugural poets writing to and for an American splendid—a lineage traceable all the best way again to Phillis Wheatley, who, on the daybreak of the Republic, addressed a poem to then General George Washington. As Gorman acknowledged this nation’s contested historical past, and its up to date tumult, her invocation of the plural pronoun “we” reminded us that, for good or literal unwell, our lives are linked. Hers was an invite to maneuver ahead collectively.

Gorman continues to discover the “we” additional in her new assortment, “Call Us What We Carry,” which she calls an “occasional book”—one framed by our many mutating but seemingly immutable pandemics, from COVID-19 and racism to local weather catastrophes and a basic malaise. In “penning a letter to the world as a daughter of it,” Gorman doesn’t merely transcribe a diary of a plague 12 months; her daring, oracular pronouncements bear witness to collective expertise, with an uncanny confidence and a prescient tone which can be all of the poet’s personal. By turns devotional and pushing the bounds of the web page, many poems within the guide play with kind—showing as questionnaires and text-message conversations, or taking over the shapes of an urn, a whale, a flag—in methods harking back to George Herbert or the concrete poets of the nineteen-sixties, one other tempestuous time searching for fixity. Gorman insists that “We are not me— / We are we,” and her poetry is unafraid to call all that we feature. “Our scars,” she writes, “are the brightest / Parts of us.”

—Kevin Young



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Read by the creator.

Allegedly the worst is behind us.
Still, we crouch earlier than the lip of tomorrow,
Halting like a headless hant in our personal home,
Waiting to recollect precisely
What it’s we’re speculated to be doing.

& what precisely are we speculated to be doing?
Penning a letter to the world as a daughter of it.
We are writing with vanishing that means,
Our phrases water dragging down a windshield.
The poet’s prognosis is that what we now have lived
Has already warped itself right into a fever dream,
The contours of its form stripped from the murky thoughts.

To be accountable we should render an account:
Not what was mentioned, however what was meant.
Not the very fact, however what was felt.
What was recognized, even whereas unnamed.
Our best take a look at might be
Our testimony.
This guide is a message in a bottle.
This guide is a letter.
This guide doesn’t let up.
This guide is awake.
This guide is a wake.
For what’s a document however a reckoning?
The capsule captured?
A repository.
An ark articulated?
& the poet, the preserver
Of ghosts & positive factors,
Our demons & desires,
Our haunts & hopes.
Here’s to the preservation
Of a light-weight so horrible.



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We are
What goes
Is on the very
   Root of ourselves.
Distance can
   Distort our deepest
   Of who
We are,
   Leave us
   & wasted
As winter’s
   Wind. We will
Not stroll
   From what
We’ve borne.
   We would
Keep it
   For some time.
Sit silent &
   Swinging on its branches
Like a toddler
   Refusing to return
Home. We would
We would
Knowing how
   We would
   Give up
Our world
   For this one.



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Grant us today
Bruising the make of us.

At occasions over half of our our bodies
Are not our personal,

Our individuals made vessel
For nonhuman cells.

To them we’re
A ship of a being,

A rustic,

A continent,
A planet.

A human
Microbiome is all of the writhing types on

& inside this physique
Drafted below our life.

We will not be me—
We are we.

Call us
What we feature.

Illustration by Grace J. Kim



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What would we appear, stripped down
Like a wintered tree.
Glossy scabs, tight-raised pores and skin,
These can look silver in sure moonlights.
In different phrases,
Our scars are the brightest
Parts of us.
* * *
The crescent moon,
The evening’s lucent lesion.
We are felled oaks beneath it,
Branches filled with empty.
Look nearer.
What we share is extra
Than what we’ve shed.
* * *
& what we share is the bark, the bones.
Paleontologists, from one fossilized femur,
Can dream up a species,
Make-believe a physique
Where there was none.
Our remnants are revelation,
Our requiem as raptus.
When we bend into grime
We’re fact preserved
Without our pores and skin.
* * *
Lumen means each the cavity
Of an organ, actually a gap,
& a unit of luminous flux,
Literally, a measurement of how lit
The supply is. Illuminate us.
That is, we, too,
Are this bodied unit of flare,
The hole for lux to breach.
* * *
Sorry, should’ve been the sunshine
Playing tips on us, we are saying,
Knuckling our eyelids.
But maybe it’s we who make
Falsities of luminescence—
Our shadows taking part in tips on stars.
Every time their gazes tug down,
They suppose us monsters, then males,
Predators, then individuals once more,
Beasts, then beings,
Horrors, & then people.
Of all the celebs probably the most lovely
Is nothing greater than a monster,
Just as starved & stranded as we’re.



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Read by the creator.

At occasions even blessings will bleed us.

There are some who misplaced their lives
& those that had been misplaced from ours,

Who we would now reënter,
All our someones summoned softly.

The closest we get to time journey
Is our fears softening,

Our hurts unclenching,
As we grow to be extra akin

To kin, as we return
To who we had been

Before we really had been
Anything or anybody—

That is, once we had been born unhating
& unhindered, howling wetly

With the whole lot we may but grow to be.
To journey again in time is to recollect

When all we knew of ourselves was love.

This excerpt is drawn from “Call Us What We Carry,” by Amanda Gorman, and her readings from the audiobook version, out in December from Penguin Random House.


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