Books & Arts

Poem: [I hope when it happens]

There is a poem by Diane Seuss that begins, “Jesus wept and so did Rowena Lee,” and what follows is the kind of buildup of living and suffering and what happens as it all goes down that reminds me of how a good line stays with you like some love. This poem from Seuss’s new collection is like that, all the remembering that makes you grateful for the kisses you remember. Or, as my good friend asks me when I need asking, “Dwayne, how is your heart?” Which, I swear, is a way to say I love you. Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts

By Diane Seuss

I hope when it happens I have time to say oh so this is how it is happening

unlike Frank hit by a jeep on Fire Island but not like dad who knew too

long six goddamn years in a young man’s life so long it made a sweet guy sarcastic

I want enough time to say oh so this is how I’ll go and smirk at that last rhyme

I rhymed at times because I wanted to make something pretty especially for Mikel

who liked pretty things soft and small things who cried into a white towel when I hurt

myself when it happens I don’t want to be afraid I want to be curious was Mikel curious

I’m afraid by then he was only sad he had no money left was living on green oranges

had kissed all his friends goodbye I kissed lips that kissed Frank’s lips though not

for me a willing kiss I willingly kissed lips that kissed Howard’s deathbed lips

I happily kissed lips that kissed lips that kissed Basquiat’s lips I know a man who said

he kissed lips that kissed lips that kissed lips that kissed Whitman’s

lips who will say of me I kissed her who will say of me I kissed someone who kissed

her or I kissed someone who kissed someone who kissed someone who kissed her.


Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. He created Freedom Reads, an initiative to curate microlibraries and install them in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poetry, ‘‘Felon,’’ explores the post-incarceration experience. His 2018 article in The New York Times Magazine about his journey from teenage carjacker to working lawyer won a National Magazine Award. He is a 2021 MacArthur fellow. Diane Seuss is a poet who is the author of ‘‘Still Life With Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl’’ (2018), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. Her most recent book is ‘‘frank: sonnets’’ (Graywolf Press, 2021).

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