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poetry Crack

Rebecca Foust’s poem “Crack” speaks to vulnerability—"just a nick/to break the skin”—that encapsulates the era of pandemic.


By Rebecca Foust

It takes just a nick

to break the skin

of me, of you;

one crack to break

what binds the book.

One ping

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from a chain

swung at the right

height & speed,

flicked at the weak

spot’s atomic knot.

A chain wound

around the palm

of the boy

who roams the rows

of cars in the night lot.

One flick of the wrist

to smash the glass

then he’s in & what

was whole will lie

in chop-shop parts.

It’s true, too, of hearts:

one tap of the peen

just so will smash the pot.

It’s not what you think.

Drink deep while you can,

for the glass will break,

your boat will spring

a leak. All it takes

is one window cracked

then wedged wide.

Even in dead calm,

waves will wrack

you bow & stern

& you’ll be lost. Lost

is the cost of the ride.

It’s true your boat

was born a wreck &

how brave it still sails

for a time. But once

you have to bail,

you may as well

give up. I asked

my mother How?

How stay strong

through the years?

The trick, she said,

is not to crack.

Be the book

with each page bound,

not cut. Be the boy

with the chain.

Be the chain, its arc,

its grace & speed,

strike where the sweet

spot spins. Be the light

that gleams glass shards.

be waves & wind.

Be lithe & fast, be strong;

most of all, be young

& don’t fall, or get sick.

Don’t crack, she said.

It only takes a nick.

Rebecca Foust’s seventh book of poetry, ONLY, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2022, and new poems are or will be in Bracken, The Hudson Review, Narrative, New Letters, Nostos, and PloughsharesRecognitions include the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry judged by Kaveh Akbar, the CP Cavafy and James Hearst poetry prizes, a Marin Poet Laureateship, and fellowships from The Frost Place, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, and Sewanee.