Rae Armantrout

Four Poems
February 25, 2024 Armantrout Rae



I don’t like it
when you’re faux-butch


or when you’re faux-femme, but
really since


I won’t know real
until I see it


and maybe not even then,
it’s true that you can’t win.


Let me think.


Perhaps the real
is merely the consistent—


though there’s nothing more
consistent than plastic.


Perhaps the “faux”
is a self-conscious





“Don’t be a child!”
I want to say,


though I am very fond of children.






All the old stories say Don’t
because we always do.


That’s how we got here
and everywhere.


We just kept going,
cleared things up

and out,


built markers,
built a doppelganger


like the stories said
we’d better not


asked if it
wanted to destroy.





Four-petal God,


bursting from the core
again and again,


getting larger
as if getting closer,


is it safe
to come in?





Maybe I want too much
from poems,


more than any poem can give.


“Waking-dream” cerulean

cushions ;


the shade of the sky
when the sun has just set;


the mind right after
the heart stops beating.





above the clouds,
in bronze-age armor,
the gods confer.


Thor: earnest,
“The earth is in peril!”



“What now?’ everyone asks,


A “Mirror-TV” remote
on the bathroom mirror.


Gargoyle cusk eel


oddly ethereal





Here and there
make two, if


like an equal sign,
I sit between.





The light blinks and
its reflection in blue glass


appears and disappears
like a heartbeat. I extend


from two to many.





When nobody’s looking
there is nothing


but collision, explosion,


each one once


no equation,
no safe passage.

Rae Armantrout’s most recent books, Versed, Money Shot, Just Saying, Itself, Partly: New and Selected Poems, Entanglements, (a chapbook selection of poems in conversation with physics), and Wobble were published by Wesleyan University Press. Wobble, a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award, was selected by Library Journal as one of the best poetry books of 2018. Her book Conjure was published in 2020. Her newest book, Go Figure, is forthcoming in September 2024 – all from Wesleyan. In 2010 her book Versed won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and The National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2007 Armantrout received a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies and journals including Poetry,Conjunctions, Lana Turner, The Nation, The New Yorker, Bomb, Harper’s,The Paris Review, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology, The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine, several volumes of The Best American Poetry, etc. Her Paris Review interview in “The Art of Poetry” series will appear in December, 2019.  She is recently retired from UC San Diego where she was professor of poetry and poetics. She now lives in the Seattle area.