Poem of the Week | November 16, 2020

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Singing Brokenly” by Lance Larsen!

Lance Larsen is the author of five poetry collections, most recently What the Body Knows (Tampa 2018). He’s received a Pushcart Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at BYU, where he serves as department chair and fools around with aphorisms: “When climbing a new mountain, wear old shoes.” In 2017 he completed a five-year appointment as Utah’s poet laureate.


Singing Brokenly

It is best to let one spider live
in your shower just one
and at least once a week drink
straight from the tap a reminder
of your animal DNA and how
one day we’ll all be married to air
a limping cat can help measure
a room’s syntax and teach
you to hide in plain sight
to taste betrayal cut your finger
and bleed into your own lisping
mouth often salt is the answer
one rain storm per picnic
one moon rising behind
a helter skelter skyline of trees
one magpie singing brokenly
who needs more than this
as I said one assassin spider
in your shower cleaning its legs
like a violinist rosinning up
for a graveyard sonata how many
times have you died since waking
every garden a grave every hand
beholden to five capricious
gods don’t count days sing
minutes how would you dance
if a cloud were your partner
how would you kiss this tulip
if your lips were a breeze


Author’s Note

Roethke’s “Root Cellar” is one of the first poems I fell in love with: “Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.” I too am drawn to ripeness and physicality. The simplest acts—planting a hosta, watching a mantis navigate my arm, palming a quail egg—invigorate everyday life. A few drafts into “Singing Brokenly,” I realized I wanted short lines and no punctuation, and I liked the immediacy of second person.