The Trembling Answers by Craig Morgan Teicher

Craig Morgan Teicher reads three poems from his new collection, The Trembling Answers, published in April by BOA Editions.

Every Turning

Every turning toward is a turning away:
poets have always known the truth
of this. I read
my book because

time in my home is senseless and
unbearable. I shower so as not
to have to face
the inevitable

crackling of my focus when I read,
and I binge-watch The Blacklist
to forestall the

chore post-shower of drying
my desperate and overgrown
hair, having also

my annual haircut, which I refuse
to attend to daily because
I am handsome
if I avoid

the mirror. But of course none
of this is what I am truly
avoiding. Death
is shorthand

for Death, for life’s uncountable
endings and its ultra-vivid
catalog of things
undone, hopes

unfulfilled, opportunities unnoticed so
untaken. I could cite lips not kissed
or kissed once and never again;
high school nights

spent grieving high school nights—they stick
in the heart like sharp bones,
clog the way like

instruments never learned—my dream
of playing piano is already
impossible, as is
my wise plan never

to fall prey to credit card debt.
But, obviously, I mean something
deeper, an avoidance
more futile and

tragic, so primary and unnameable
I shall be forced to talk around it
—say everything but—
all my droning, hasty

years: not death but what it surrounds,
this one life that is all that I am,
prize I fail
to value

because I mistake it for a consolation against
the sting of some other, greater loss.
Birdsong, sunset, music unfolding
in and out of time,

the taste of chocolate blossoming so generously
across my tongue, my daughter laughing,
my sighing son,
warming winter air,

waking unworried from a weird, good dream,
thousands of orgasms, tongue and thigh
and arch, a clean room,

books on shelf after happy shelf, drunkenness,
sleep, crying out and crying over
my pain, my wondrous

Self-Portrait Beside Myself

We’ve been lucky—March is over
and my son is still alive. My daughter
is about to crawl. And the golden
sunset light recalls
distant childhood light.
I feed my son while he sleeps
through a hole in his tummy
when the night nurse
has the night off,
and when I go to the mirror
it’s to see if the ocean-eyed man
the teenager I was had hoped to become
is anywhere in there.
The teenager is; he wants you
to see him, help him, tell him
he’s strong and gently
dramatic. He wants
to be part of a story, even
if not a true one. He wants
to fuck like mad,
even if I don’t. Standing over my son
at night, I feel quiet, only then,
no need to be me or anyone,
just listening to him breathe.
I can divide all life
into breath and waiting
for the next breath, and
the calm in the troughs
between. I wanted
to show you I could see the world
without me in the way; I can’t, not
even for a little while. I’m beside
that man watching over his son,
impressed with him and his humility.
But if that’s what it takes,
to keep my son safe—admiring
my better self rather than
being him—then ok. That’s ok.

Self-Portrait as the Man I’ve Become

When did I grow so
fastidious? When did I learn
to use spreadsheets? There was no
particular day; it happened in my
thirties, that mostly pleasant path
between youth and whatever’s up next.

Two deer appeared suddenly in our
backyard today; I practically yelled
everyone to the window. They ate
leaves from our rented trees
and soon moved on. Simone
was amazed, Cal smiled. When
did the deer visit our yard?
It was sometime in my thirties.


“Every Turning,” “Self-Portrait Beside Myself,” and “Self-Portrait As the Man I’ve Become” from The Trembling Answers. Copyright © 2017 by Craig Morgan Teicher, reprinted courtesy of BOA Editions, Ltd.,