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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

Poem of the Week: An Old Story

Today's Poem of the Week comes from Pulitzer Prize-winning and former Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. "An Old Story" is featured in Smith's most recent collection, Wade in the Water, which was preceded by three other books of poetry and an acclaimed memoir, Ordinary Light. Smith's poetry is a uniquely fascinating blend of the ethereal, a kind of science fiction at times, with the intellectual, with a forceful questioning of power and identity, with the resonance of image and language. I find her poems both hard to pin down and impossible to ignore. If Smith is saying and doing more with her poetry that we can each entirely pinpoint on our own, surely her work's lyrical endurance in the mind is enough to cement its value. Therefore, I bring "An Old Story" to the blog because in the years since I first read it, it has continued to sing in my head, to remind me of such color.



An Old Story


We were made to understand it would be

Terrible. Every small want, every niggling urge,

Every hate swollen to a kind of epic wind.

Livid, the land, and ravaged, like a rageful

Dream. The worst in us having taken over

And broken the rest utterly down.


A long age

Passed. When at last we knew how little

Would survive us—how little we had mended

Or built that was not now lost—something Large and old awoke. And then our singing Brought on a different manner of weather.

Then animals long believed gone crept down

From trees. We took new stock of one another.

We wept to be reminded of such color.


- Tracy K. Smith

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