Founding Director of the Center for Poetry, Anita Skeen, chose this poem. “I came across this poem two days before Thanksgiving when I was thinking about all of the things I am grateful for. I loved it, which is not a critical response, but an emotional one. And then I thought how grateful I am for poets who put their work out into the world, who speak to us from the mountaintops of fame and the cathedrals of success, but also for those poets whom we run across by accident, who may be ‘hidden in the wider dark,’ but whose work continues to delight and surprise us when we discover them.”
Forget each slight, each head that turned
Toward something more intriguing—
Red flash of wing beyond the window,
The woman brightly chiming
About the suffering of the world. Forget
The way your best friend told the story
Of that heroic road trip, forgetting that you drove
From Tulsa to Poughkeepsie while he
Slumped dozing under headphones. Forget
The honors handed out, the lists of winners.
Forget the certificates, bright trophies you
Could have, should have, maybe won.
Remind yourself you never wanted them.
When the spotlight briefly shone on you,
You stepped back into darkness,
Let the empty stage receive the light,
The black floor suddenly less black—
Scuff-marks, dust, blue tape—the cone
Of light so perfect, slicing silently that perfect
Silent darkness, and you, hidden in that wider dark,
Your refusal a kind of gratitude at last.
Copyright © 2019 by Jon Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.