Poetry: Children Listen – The New York Times

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The words “you must grow wild on the graves” are all too true for things most of us know, that most of us need to find ways to tell our children. I’m writing with this in mind until Emmett and what a terrible story it is when a child is buried. But I’m also writing thinking about the future of the children we’re trying to love today. Roger Reeves gives us something to remind them, something about not always being right when we predict the apocalypse – and something about maybe, just maybe, our kids have to be something we can’t quite name to make this world right again. Chosen by Reginald Dwayne Betts

by Roger Reeves

But it turned out that I was deeply
He’s wrong about the end of the world
The body in flames will not be the body
In flames but only one house fire ignored
Black sails of that lonely burning
Boat rubbing against lovers’ legs
Launched into a Roman sky by a carousel
Lovers are so sick in their love
Noticing a man drenched in fire on the patio
Or a child mistaken for a dog
A running boy was mistaken to tell about the bomb
Didn’t ring before going in
In Gaza with lots of happy news
A god cries in Kazimierz
Raised a golden hand in a window
Like it slipped over your head
Our people in the slippery rag of the future
Courtesy as inconspicuous as flies
Rubbing your legs together while standing
Kids on a slice of melon
you never wanted to be human
you must be grass
You must grow wild above the graves


Reginald Dwayne Bets He is a poet and lawyer. He created Freedom Reads, an initiative to curate microlibraries and place them in jails across the country. His latest poetry collection “Felon” explores the post-incarceration experience. His 2018 New York Times Magazine article about his journey from teen car theft to working lawyer won a National Magazine Award. Roger Reeves is a poet whose work includes the forthcoming “The Best Barbarian” (WW Norton, March 2022). Her first book won the Levis Reading Award, the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and the John C. Zacharis First Book Award.

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