Poem of the Week | March 11, 2019

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Another Last Day,” an excerpt from Alex Lemon’s upcoming collection.

Alex Lemon’s Another Last Day will be published this spring by Milkweed Editions. He is the author of Feverland: A Memoir in Shards, Happy: A Memoir and the poetry collections The Wish Book,Fancy Beasts, Hallelujah Blackout and Mosquito. His writing has appeared in Esquire, American Poetry Review, The Huffington Post, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry, Tin House, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, AGNI, New England Review, The Southern Review, Grist and jubilat, among numerous others. Among his awards are a 2005 Fellowship in Poetry from the NEA, a Jerome Foundation Fellowship and a 2006 Minnesota Arts Board Grant. He is an editor at large for Saturnalia Books, the Poetry Editor of descant and sits on the advisory board of The Southern Review and TCU Press. He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, and teaches at TCU.

Another Last Day


all this time
death has refused

to take me & now
when the willows

darken from my chest rips
a flame-winged black-

bird my bones knot
with goodbyes breaking

to not be a carousel
whirring darkly


ambulance lights
in the distance throb

my blood & in my guts
I feel my home

on fire
my family

singing ablaze
from fire-curtained

windows—We are good
We are good
—they croon

but it is too late always
now too bright


forever along the river
it is a hot hot gust

today I welcome
fat raindrops welcome

whirlwind & hello coming
darkness where am I


sun-bleached mannequins
rise into the sky

from the bruised water
empty birdcages bend

low the lilacs
a torn orange dress

I long ago yearned to
wear laces the brambles

without knowing
what I am

I go


when I look down
there is nothing

of me but a ragged duffel
bag sinking into the shallows

two babies are zipped up in it
or just one baby

besides me
it is suffocating

in here it is dark
I would be anything else

sunflower black ice
prickly pear

this life of heat
waving apparitions

I am tumbling king
protea pothole

I am asleep I
am drowning


behind my closed eyes
I am driving a car

that has no steering wheel
only an array of doll arms & squirt guns

hundreds of them lined up
along the dash as

I pull triggers & shake
tiny plastic hands the car

veers from roadside to ditch
the radio turns on wipers swoosh

the seat cages around me
the car speeds

around me apparitions
of all of the people I love

fade in & out around me
unsmiling they flicker & glow

around me go out
in the rearview mirror

only to flashbulb
back into being

I mash the brake pedal
lift & lever the arms

but I don’t know anything
beyond the serpentine careen

a sudden plunge into dark
in my guts it is oilslick & silent

until the plummet
like a sudden sunrise

begins to bleach
the falling stars

soon the blankness throbs
I am again awake or half

so an all-swallowing white
canvas above me the ceiling

with some beast
from the other side

of myself about to rip
through me into

the slaughterhouse
of this day


looking out
from the city’s edge

the inferno dusk
over the domed hills perfectly

landscaped over the old dump
makes me need a jean jacket

of waxed denim
with patches of bands

that I have heard play
only in my head

above the immaculate mounds
pinholes throb

the dead refuse to be left

sooner or later
all of my insides

will drop out of me
my pockets will turn

into wind
around whatever becomes

of my bones a few dimes
a museum pin will ping & bound

until they don’t
the air thick & still

no industrial strength zipper
no stretch of taut & unwrinkled skin

will anymore be able
to contain all of this


crumpled red in the mouth
of the golden lab

that saunters into the street
from between two cars

in the parking lot
is a severed hand

glinting between its teeth
in the dark

watching from the sidewalk
I am dumbstruck

all things end in violence
in the city

because you can not love
everyone enough can not love

anyone as much as they need
as much as they deserve

the sharp-ribbed dog sits
back on its haunches

in the middle of the street
spotlit by a slowing car

it crouches in front
of the stopping car

whips its head
back & forth

I am filled
with a blood-warm glow

spilling over
with a blood-warm glow

I am rivering I am watching
there is a hollowing-out

hunger inside me
I could eat god


lying in the outside dark
I slapbox the ghosts

of my ragged breath
they are pearl-lipped

outside of me
I sing

to everything
there is no sleep

in this life from my back
every twisting star

up there dead for ages
looks lovely


with the brilliant glint
of a knife-tip

I conduct
the air-scribbling black

flies through morning’s
mottled glow


around town I wave
at strangers

in crosswalks
all of these lonely

failings draped
over us

it is impossible
to feel

the pearled lightning
in the dirt

through the sidewalks
this concrete blight

croaks no rain ever
from above


I jumble through
the overgrown kale

leaf beetles
in the mug

of my hand
hummingbirds buzz

the daylight above
from a shadow-swabbed

window I hear a neighbor
yell at the TV

in the sunshine
I wait

for the next cry
the last day that will

come in intensive
care the sickness

each one of us
has but never speaks

of the sun

my closed eyes
each day of this life

deathmad & beautiful


on the carpet
of the family room

my feet bring

which is a kindness
a prayer

this is it this is it
the rain started

an hour ago
it washed out

my weeping

they say everything
has happened

or maybe now
nothing at all as

my skin is ice
cold everything is

just fine


out of the colander
of cut greens

a shimmering blue dot
plummets to the floor

as I crouch to it
I hear whispering

you poor plaything
the beetle pinballs

over the tiles
rolls out

of my grasp
let me show you

the many ways of never
the pecan tree

outside the window
sighs & rubs its hands

your mother your father
I am older now

the world is a terrible place
but I want to last forever

clinging to its teeth


Author’s Note:

Another Last Day was born out of place of deep fragility—of a tenuous relationship to the self, and a radically strange relationship—a position almost severed—from the landscape around me. The sequence labors toward understanding a body that continues to fail me, and one now rocked and mystified by the ardors and arduousness of parenting, of being a present and good partner, all while working to be a person who can love themselves as much as they love the world they live in. And as much as the inner world of these poems is deeply troubled, the world outside of me seemed to be falling apart—a shitscape of politics, of ecological and humanitarian dismay. And so the sequence treks and observes and attends to and sees and in the end finds (maybe?) a radical, rollicking kind of quiet hope.