Five Poems

Poetry by Rae Armantrout
Little Trees, by Travis MacDonald. Copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist.


We felt we were in danger
but couldn’t agree
on what the danger was.

Some said there were wolves in the forest;
others said there were cannibals among us.

Some thought people
had been turned to zombies
and made to speak
the words of others.

Others said
that wasn’t possible.

Some claimed the reservoir
was drying up;

others said the reservoir
was a goddess.

Old ideas made sense again.



Frozen stick-figure trees.

People say there have been reports
of people standing motionless
on freeways late at night
causing cars to swerve.

I didn’t believe what I was seeing.


“Look who’s talking.”

A car, a baby, a colored candy, a tree.
A girl is making faces and gestures
to coincide with the words
arranging themselves in her head.


One takes off
and the rest follow—

a murmuration
veering west.


You’ll have to take
my words
for this.


One sells video greetings
from D-list celebrities.

One is an experimental
with a podcast
on non-fungible tokens.

One makes one-off
immersive environments
using everyday objects.

Some pole tourists
from the cruise ships
to lotus ponds
which make no
lasting impression.



I could ask
what is the minimum
memory necessary
for a certain kind
of molecule
to exist—

or any fancy thing.

Is memory thicker
in some regions of space?


Last night you held me in bed, squeezing
briefly here and there, my upper arm, my
shoulder blade, changing how I held myself
(Everything holds itself) and I remembered
this was what I wanted.

What you were looking for, I have no idea.

Rae Armantrout

Writing for the Poetry Foundation, David Woo says that Rae Armantrout’s recent book Finalists (Wesleyan 2022) “emanates the radiant astonishment of living thought.” Her 2018 book, Wobble, was a finalist for the National Book Award that year. Her other books with Wesleyan include Partly: New and Selected Poems, Just Saying, Money Shot and Versed. In 2010 Versed won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and The National Book Critics Circle Award. Retired from UC San Diego where she was professor of poetry and poetics, Armantrout is the current judge of the Yale Younger Poets Prize. A new book, Go Figure, will appear from Wesleyan in September, 2024. Notice, a chapbook focused on the effects of climate change, was recently published by Wesleyan in February.

Travis MacDonald

Travis MacDonald is an artist and musician based in Melbourne. His deliberately understated works often feature a subdued palette and subjects that bridge the mundane to the absurd. They offer an idiosyncratic take on the more traditional genres of figuration and landscape painting. He draws upon his interest in art history, music and world events to present a memory: blurred, twisted and suggestive of a greater narrative, merging the personal and the universal.

Travis MacDonald was born in Bunnythorpe, New Zealand and currently lives and works in Melbourne. He completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2011 and has been exhibiting since 2009. He has been awarded the Gary Grossbard Drawing Prize and the Lionel Gell Foundation Drawing Scholarship. His work was featured in the 2018 Melbourne Art Fair and in 2016, MacDonald’s work was exhibited in Painting. More Painting at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. He held his first solo exhibition at Niagara Galleries in December 2016.