Generation by Rae Armantrout

A creation story from my childhood: in which a bird pecks at a bamboo so hard that it splits in half, and out comes a man called Malakas (Strong) and a woman called Maganda (Beautiful). Here is an illustration. The story varies now from island to island where I live, but the fact about the bird is constant.

Chopin at two in the morning: Prelude No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 28. It’s stopped raining. My fingers graze the yellow flowers beneath my window as I turn back to my desk and write. These past two years have been difficult. I keep thinking of the time I’ve wasted. I was the undergrowth—always underneath taller trees, always wanting.

How much do we rely on the crumbs we left behind to tell us who and where we are?

There was a child who forgot to be a child because the years have been spent plotting ways to escape the story and find an ending. Possessing neither strength nor beauty, there is only a hunger to eat away at history and what has been.

There is only a story after there is a story to tell, yes?

Do we create endings, or beginnings? The music changes to Shostakovich’s The Gadfly, Opus 97. The dog sleeps near my feet, and I could almost say that I am happy.

To find your trail devoured by birds—isn’t that freeing, too?

Of course you can’t go back.

Rae Armantrout

We know the story.

She turns
back to find her trail
devoured by birds.

The years: the

This is from Veil: New and Selected Poems by Rae Armantrout, published by Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

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