Poem: Cataract – The New York Times


We lost the poet Kamilah Aisha Moon last year. In this poem called “Cataracts,” he writes about the blurry vision many of us may experience as we age. The poem begins with an astonishing display of eyes distorted as turtles, but the turtle also serves as a metaphor for the physical withdrawal of the entire body as it crawls towards the “ultimate haze” of death. We gradually move on to something bigger and end with a statement: “No surgery for this.” But the poem reminds us of the “disheveled lane of beauty” and the “66-year-old landscape” captured by the eyes. Chosen by Victoria Chang

by Kamilah Aisha Moon

When life itches and finally hurts the eyes
they become turtles – they withdraw into themselves,

dive into special swamps, drag under
the girl they once belonged to, the damp woman

rolling them with delight, then crying their children
here, it’s flashing back. They are drawn to hardness,

squinting at every wound. After all, why is this cruel
gauze now? Over 66 years of landscape, your destiny

scattershot has survived so far – have they seen enough,
just the growing armor of a very skilled violence

can it lift? He goes down, begs the rest –
Please attach tissue, organs and membrane,

still eager to look (until that last haze)
a little disheveled beauty. eyes

The bark, zigzag and buzz of your dreams are trapped
inside locked windows. There is no surgery for this.


Victoria Chang He has written five poetry books, most recently “Obit” (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), which has been named a New York Times Highlight and A Must Read. His non-fiction book “Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence and Grief” was published by Milkweed Editions in 2021. He lives in Los Angeles and teaches at Antakya University’s MFA program. Kamilah Ayse Ay He was an American poet whose last book, “Starshine & Clay” (Four Way Books, 2017), from which this poem was taken, was taken. His honors included a Pushcart Award and fellowships from Cave Canem and MacDowell.



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