With no metaphors for what turns and turns, for what
meets the ground from clouds, I collapse in the room
my barn-blue, silicone funnel. My students, as unruffled
as the spectators who they say will idle on the highway
while the sky rotates earthward, go round the rows
with advice. I’ll survive fine in this new city without shelter
underground, they soothe. Get a weather radio, get yourself
a helmet. I jot their notes verbatim so when I later walk
my beagle along the bend and glimpse—held motionless
in the reflection—a formation shaped like a beaver’s tail
in the water, I don’t startle, but look up to where he pulls:
at the egret, the scissortail, the range above us—swallowed!

Janine Joseph is a formerly undocumented poet and librettist from the Philippines, and the author of Decade of the Brain, forthcoming from Alice James Books in 2023, as well as Driving Without a License (Alice James Books, 2016), which won the Kundiman Poetry Prize. The recipient of fellowships, prizes, and residencies from Kundiman, MacDowell, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center, Philippine American Writers and Artists, the Academy of American Poets, Hedgebrook, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Bethany Arts Community, she is an associate professor of creative writing at Oklahoma State University, as well as a visiting associate professor and 2022–23 Dean’s Distinguished Scholar at Virginia Tech. Joseph is a co-organizer for the organization Undocupoets.


  1. What an amazing poem. (And what sentences, syntax, and closure!) Thank you!

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