Pick-a-Poem: “How It Is”


Welcome, dear readers, to another installment of “Pick-a-Poem.” For those who don’t know, Pick-a-Poem posts mean that we are featuring a poem from someone whose work you may not have seen or read yet. Our weekly featured poems come from Poetry Daily, which is a great site for finding new and interesting poetry to read. This week we feature the poem How It Is, by Alice Friman. This week is especially awesome because you can actually hear Alice Friman reading How It Is, if you are so inclined.

According to her page on Poetry Daily, Alice Friman has published four chapbooks and five full-length collections of her poetry. She has been published in fourteen countries and her work appears in many anthologies. She is currently professor emerita of English and creative writing at the University of Indianapolis, and is the poet-in-residence at Georgia College.

How It Is, by Alice Friman

Late October
and the pitiless drift
begins in earnest. And all
that whispered in the pockets
of summer’s green uniform
is shaken out and dumped.

My mimosa knew, for wasn’t
that death fingering the leaves
all summer? Yet the tree
plumped its pods, spending
all July squeezing them out,
going about its business, as did
the slash pine and loblolly,
spraying pollen—coating
windows, cars, filling every
idle slit with sperm.

What does life mean
but itself? Ask the sea.
You’ll get a wet slap back-
handed across your mouth.
Ask the tiger. I dare you.

And your life, with its
tedium of suffering, what
does it mean but what it is?
And mine—balancing
checkbooks and whomping up
a mess of vittles
as my son
used to say. My son, the funny one,
the always-hungry-for-supper-
I-was-never-able-to-give-him one.

Who am I to write the user’s manual
for a life, except to say,
Look at trees, dug in and defiant.
Be like the river. Stick out your tongue.

Why not? What’s to lose
when what’s to lose is everything?

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poem! For more of these posts, click here.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

One thought on “Pick-a-Poem: “How It Is”

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