Pick-a-Poem: Debra Nystrom


Hello, blog readers, and welcome to the first Pick-a-Poem post of the new year! Every Wednesday here on the blog we feature a new poem from an author you may not have heard of before. As always, today’s poem comes from Poetry Daily, which is a great site for finding new poems from new (and old) poets. Today’s featured poem is Recess and the Speed of Sound by Debra Nystrom.

According to her bio page on Poetry Daily, Debra Nystrom‘s most recent book of poetry, published by Sarabande Books, is entitled Bad River Road. Her work has also appeared in anthologies and magazines, including The Best American Poetry, AGNI, the New Yorker, Slate, and Yale Review. She currently teaches at the University of Virginia’s MFA program.

Recess and the Speed of Sound, by Debra Nystrom

Dewey County, South Dakota, 1963


Middle of nowhere: rattling restlessness trembling the window glass,
and boys look up from marbles on the playground,
tobacco-bag booty of round
gems spilled, placed to crack one against another at angles that cross

circles drawn in dirt. Cats’-eyes, oilies, steelies—stored beneath beds
at night, while dreams line up precision shots for fingers to hold
still above: perfect-spun explosions, worlds displaced. They’ve been told
no coin-flips, no betting. Jets from the base shear daily over their heads,

shuddering ground, riffling the grasses. Arnie’s cousin in the Air Force
has climbed down into missile silos over by Pine Ridge that hold the Minutemen,
his social-studies report said. The Big Boys are out there under pastures and wind,
waiting for their chance
. Stopping banter now to notice

crows flapping off all at once, the kids knuckle down and wait for a bone-
thudding boom to shake their game, make what’s precious change hands.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poem. You can read more of these posts here.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan



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