Longing, we say, because desire is full / of endless distances.—Robert Hass
Driving down a highway in August, saving for laterthe right word for now, desire whittled mea tool I'd never seen before but knew how to use almost immediately.Tornadoes yellowed, revised the river & bovine landsfor sale beside it.Longing, I said, pushing distancethrough a cage—it's why the picture city must be snowed in.The other words I couldn't think of at the time,like many things that leave before you've found a name for them.
Copyright © 2020 by Maya C. Popa
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Maya Catherine Popa is a Romanian-American poet and author of two chapbooks, The Bees Have Been Cancelled, named a Poetry Book Society Choice in 2017, and You Always Wished the Animals Would Leave, published in 2018 (DIAGRAM chapbook series). She is the recipient of awards from the Poetry Foundation and the Hippocrates Society, and her writing has appeared in Poetry, Kenyon Review, Poetry London, and Tin House among others. She is the Poetry Reviews Editor at Publishers Weekly, and she directs the Creative Writing Program and teaches English literature at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City.
"American Faith announces Popa as a debut poet whose compassion, intellect, febrile imagination, and sharp ingenuity set a new standard of literary radiance. It is wholly astonishing to read this artist (part heart-diviner, part brain surgeon) harkening her ancestors and making this poetry of witness, this powerful song of loss and rage and wonder and survival. That survival (“memory, you crooked thing/I do to the page”) is musical, historical, epic and lyric (Popa’s work inhabits at least seven of the muses’ realms) and gives voice to what didn’t make it: a childhood tragedy, shadows of abuse and violence, the destruction of a child or a family or a species. The book is a world-traveling, time-leaping historical document, each poem a pin on the map of its self-interrogating, wildly hopeful journey to the center of a longed-for spiritual justice."
—Brenda Shaughnessy, author of The Octopus Museum
“In these striking, memorable pages we are reminded that violence, both public and private, is part of what it means to live in America today: 'A boy with a cricket rifle / kills his sister in Kentucky. / No teacher can show him / how to live with it.' Another poem announces, 'The government has been canceled.' The dictator 'drapes a medal over his shadow / then extradites the dead from purgatory.' There are guns everywhere, in a variety of colors— 'pink for girls to shoot squirrels.' Even love misses 'a shot for someone cute.' At the same time, American Faith appeals to the senses with its strange and beautiful song. How does Popa do this? How does she find that that keyhole, through which the ordinary becomes poetry, becomes a terrifying and unsettling lyric hymn?”
—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa