National Poetry Month, Day 32: “Sacrament” by Tracy K Smith


Our National Poetry Month project comes to an end two days after the end of the month, but we close with a special treat–a poem from the next book selection by the Rumpus Poetry Book Club, Life On Mars by Tracy K. Smith. I hope you’ve enjoyed these poems as much as I did while curating this project.


The women all sing when the pain is too much.

But first there is a deep despairing silence.

I don’t know what rocks in them, what wants

To knock them clear. Not just the child,

Who knows only to obey. This something

Takes them from chatter, to a silly dance,

Down to all fours begging to die. Then

It drags them up by the hair, or lays them out flat

And strikes them on the head. Then they see it,

So bright it should be death, commanding now.

And again, after a pause. Now. Nothing else

Is there between it and them. It burns the air,

Singes sound. Their voices sink deep into themselves,

Down through flesh into the body’s own hell. Sometimes

It takes forever for that song only the animals know

To climb back up into air as if to burst the throat.

Tracy K. Smith

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →