This selection, chosen by guest curator Sarah Clark, is from You Should Feel Bad by Laura Cresté, released by Poetry Society of America in 2020.
You keep alive a succulent for six years
and then it begins to fail, the leaves purple,
so you put yourself into the dry bed
and feel for the roots, bury them in your wet hands.
The first time a man said oh babe, oh babe, babe
when he was about to come
you thought it meant he liked you.
By the next one you know better.
You want to know about entropy
like a scientist, not like a poet
where the natural world stands in
for your emotional landscape.
The universe is inexorably expanding
and you are so sad inside the Lincoln Tunnel.
There are creosote bushes in the Mojave Desert
12,000 years old. They’re nothing spectacular
and they could be you; what you want above all is endurance.
Your care for the succulent is like how men
care for you, which is to say occasional,
which is to say what goes around, comes—
No, it just goes.
Leaving a man’s apartment in Brooklyn,
you go to your sister, smelling like sex,
and kiss her cheek. It might be a one-time thing
but a psychic told you two years ago
that his initials would be important.
He donated his kidney to a stranger, and when you saw
his scar you felt awed and afraid for him,
you wanted to sleep with him.
What is it like to be so good?
You and your sister collaborate on a text message
to her boss, figure out where to put the haha.
You want to be liked, but sometimes forget how.
Your sister never forgets.
You wash the dog who’s dirty from the Prospect Park pond.
The shower scares him to shivers every time,
you say Mister Shakes, it’s okay.
Life is simple when it’s about calming the dog,
getting on the subway when you’re wine-sick,
remembering to email that student.
You take the sun’s shocking portrait
but the color never comes out right, does it?
It doesn’t matter, the sun doesn’t need you
to look good. It’s exactly itself so don’t waste your time.
Don’t read your tarot cards either,
you know you won’t handle it gracefully
when you turn over Death. You get Death more than anyone you know,
like it’s time to end something but you don’t know what.