Martha Collins

Practicing Eights
March 20, 2024 Collins Martha



After I almost died, it was hard
to make 5s, and I couldn’t make 8s.
In the force 8 wind, the leaves
became little sails, uprooting their tree.
And so I practiced: 5 5 5, then shaky
8 8 8, all the way down the page.
Of course they traded eights:
they were playing blues.
Until the 10th century, the Perso-
Arabic 8 resembled our 5.
Each of the eight octopus arms is a brain
that can “taste-touch” and sense light.
Then that figure got looped around:
you can start with a 5 and make an 8!
Buddha gave us the eight-fold path,
Jesus eight beatitudes. Blessed is the 8.


Martha Collins’s eleventh volume of poetry is Casualty Reports (Pittsburgh, 2022); her tenth, Because What Else Could I Do (Pittsburgh, 2019), won the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award. Her fifth volume of co-translated Vietnamese poetry is Dreaming the Mountain by Tuệ Sỹ, with Nguyen Ba Chung (Milkweed, 2023).  Collins founded the U.Mass. Boston creative writing program and taught at Oberlin College for ten years.