In Their Own Words

Ali Power on “A Poem for Record Keepers”

Ali Power author photo

A Poem For Record Keepers (an excerpt)


"I am just coming / Just going in"
–Joseph Ceravolo


I need less and less attention.

As we pass through uneven tufts of pastoral pornography.

I am no longer so pale.

My paleness no longer grows.


It softens.

The seasons are still coming; the seasons keep coming one by one. 


Later, on the reified Ikea odyssey.

Certain conditions sink deeper and deeper.

Under our very eyes.

There's no need that can't increase.

Examine both sides of this machine.

The rising ever-rising jerk.

The happiness of all, etc.


Spring song.

So many ugly hats.

Dismembered cloud transmissions.

From exiled fashion designers.

And long-deceased seamstresses.

At once swaths.

Of synthetic turf in viscous folds. 


Dante died in transit.

Keats in Rome.

Pound, Venice; Montale, Milan. 

Orgy of want.

Vestibule of don't want.

I'm trying to locate the shiny spot.

On your glass.


You want a location. 

But you really mean a telescope.

I hand you the champagne from no occasion.

Should I keep going?

In certain rooms we can only look ahead.

Looking ahead is fun.

When you're delusional.


Shuttlecock is shortened to shuttle.

Shuffle the shuttle of the loom.

The cock part (made of feathers).

Breaks easily, is replaced with plastic.

I find the hardest part.

About talking.

Is the part about talking.


Sometimes we say things we don't mean.

Sometimes we say things we do mean but then say, "I didn't mean it."

Because what was said was mean.

And the truth hurts.

I find comfort in knowing when to use a comma.

It gives me a sense of certainty in this uncertain world.

This is my trousseau, my love.

From A Poem for Record Keepers (Argos Books, 2016). All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

On "A Poem for Record Keepers"

I started writing A Poem for Record Keepers in February 2013. I found myself writing these seven line poems. I wish I could say from where they came, but they just happened. I wrote a couple. Then I wrote a couple more imitating myself. I started each line with a capital letter and ended each line with a period (it was liberating!). I was keeping a record. I wrote down facts and things that happened and things I read and things I said and things friends and lovers said. These things accumulated.

Record Keepers begins in winter and ends in summer. This section (V) was written in the spring. For example, #31 ("Spring song. / So many ugly hats.") was written on the day of the Kentucky Derby. There are seven sections. Each section has seven poems. Each poem has seven lines. 7 x 7. I liked the seven-line poem—that it could stand alone but also that it could be built on top of other seven line poems and build something bigger. I liked and needed the containing structure of sevens (like days in a week?).

Record Keepers tells a story by recording. It's a story about what we remember and how we remember. It's a story about a poet writing things down. You could say it's a love story, and you wouldn't be wrong (how "I" becomes "we"). It's an American story in an American landscape—built on money and a history of hate, populated by the social constructions of race, gender, and terror. It's a story about suffering against this American landscape, against desensitization. These poems work to uncover causalities of suffering, to identify the ways in which I am and we are complicit in our own suffering, as individuals and as a society. These poems are trying to make invisible connections visible.

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