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Poem: Practice - The New York Times

Susan Barba’s second book, “geode,” is rich with shining interiors and tactile relationships, delicate human to delicate earth, small delusions of ownership against wider backdrops of loss and time. Poems acting as guides, helping us navigate and remember, create an intricate overlay of worlds, humans and trees. This poem — bearing words like “testify” and “judge” — echoes our current moment and offers relief. The title itself is a strong suggestion: We have to keep working at not letting the anger overtake us, hold on too long. Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye


By Susan Barba

Your anger is a scrim,
clouding your vision.

You see, you hear,
and then you testify, you judge.

Write the necessary elegies,
the songs of temporary

fury. Human seasons are
as leaves, not oaks.

See what forest
has arisen from the rot.

Allow yourself
to be as generous.


Oak, whose girth
exceeds my reach

forever I am
at your feet,
looking up.

Naomi Shihab Nye is the 2019-21 Young People’s Poet Laureate of the Poetry Foundation, Chicago, and the author of “The Tiny Journalist,” published by BOA in 2019. Susan Barba is a poet whose second book of poems, “geode,” is forthcoming from Black Sparrow Press. She works as a senior editor for New York Review Books.

Illustration by R.O. Blechman

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