Watch the squirrel clean its face
until its hands are your hands,
until the chemical energy of sunlight
is gentle as a kiss
on your cheek, don’t stop until
the senators inside you
go home to their creamed corn and televisions,
their partners and dogs, until
the two-way mirrors
and oyster knives you hang from your optic nerves
are taken by the wind, let it
uncurl your eyelashes,
let it carry you
in its pocket like a mint. It’s all true—
the weird sex thing, the yellow pills, how I climbed
myself like a tree. Basically anything
can hold itself hostage.
The question isn’t Why? but So?
Still, there are ways
of touching without bulldozing,
ways of washing a body
without making the person inside it
feel like a plate.
You don’t have to sympathize
with the teeth of chainsaws
if you don’t want to.
Where you go
when you enter a wormhole
is not important.
This poem is the winner of the 8th annual Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize. The prize awards $1,000 and publication of the winning poem to a poet under 40 years of age in honor of the late Stanley Kunitz's dedication to mentoring poets.