Poem of the Week | April 24, 2017

This week, we are proud to present a new poem by Reese Conner. Conner received his MFA from Arizona State University, where he has continued to teach composition and poetry workshops. He is an Assistant Poetry Editor at Fifth Wednesday Journal. His work appears or is forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Moon City Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Spillway, and elsewhere. He received the Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Mabelle A. Lyon Poetry Award, and a Chili Pepper from Rate My Professor.

Author’s note:

The intention of my work is to capture certain abstractions—grief, love, betrayal, expectation, wonder, relativity—in approachable anecdotes. I often rely on an animal, particularly the cat, as a vehicle to these abstractions. I tend towards animals because they elicit a certain innocence that is, of course, present in humans, but tougher to find. This thought spawned “The Rapture.”
In the poem, I imagine a worldwide event that privileges the hierarchy I have internalized in my work—namely, that nature is more worthy than humans. And so, as the people in the poem witness everything else receiving the affirmation they thought reserved for themselves, they process the subversion in varying degrees of confusion, self-pity, violence, and, for that old couple, grace.
I felt the poem would be disingenuous to humanity’s potential without the old couple as a through-line. In some ways, I think misanthropy is in vogue, particularly among certain idealists, because for them, the world is a broken promise. I confess I am one of those idealists. And so, that gesture of optimism at the end of the poem is, I think, pretty radical. It’s my way of admitting that, yeah, people can be pretty awful, but maybe, just maybe…


The Rapture

after Robert Dash’s “Into the Mystic”

The first thing to go was a sailboat.
It was raptured, just like that. Snap
your fingers, please. Like that.


An old couple watched from the end
of a pier. Beyond them, the sloop
tickled water for a bit, shuddered
like nostalgia or blackmail, then poof:
The mainsail, the headsail, the hull,
all the boat jargon lost specificity
like a ghost, bleeding form
and crying vowels. The boat
peeled from the water, stretching
a paintbrush of pixels in its wake
as it rose. The skyline, too,
began to glaze, and the sea
poured upward into it—everything
a swarm of movement.


Imaginative men who witnessed it
thought things like justice.
The old couple joined hands now.
And everyone who knew Robert Hass
knew he was right: Everything
was dissolving, spiriting away
towards a more perfect self
of itself. As more world
blurred upward—housecats, tire swings,
entire orchards—a gentle murmur
spread in the bellies of the observant,
who saw even the ugly things
begin to ascend—blobfish, Smart Cars,
murder weapons, every issue of Us Weekly
and thought, or began to think:
What about us? And they were all
naked now, they noticed—
clothes lifted from them
like water in a dry heat. Some ogled
the newly naked world with intention.
Others began to tantrum—violent
or existential, all unable to translate
what must have felt like betrayal.
And that old couple, still holding hands,
looked skyward and stood up
on their tippy toes.