Poem: Tender Range



Today’s poem, John Rybicki’s “Tender Range,” is an incantation that seems particularly fitting for a crisp fall day. It’s a series of lyrical fragments arranged as a kind of stay against loss and death. We liked this poem for the way it subtly but persuasively finds a fresh language for the sense of imperilment that lurks around us, as in the eerie lines “I don’t know anything / about blowing a child out/ like a balloon, or what comes after— .” —Meghan O’Rourke


Come the white morning
I’ll cross the earth on my face,

let the barrel of light tip over
one more time

and let’s just call it sunrise.
I don’t know anything

about blowing a child out
like a balloon, or what comes after—

that dream like a waterfall sealed in a flask
close to God’s hip.

It’s night now with those squares
of light all over the world,

there where a woman has been
spreading her own light onto the windows

of her house just like I have
rubbed oil onto your belly.

Mothers daub their fire to the glass
so even a scarecrow like me

out wandering the night
can take his chin out from inside his coat,

there where his own lantern is hissing.
To gaze through the glass and stop

the crunch of footfalls over the bones
of things I cannot fix.

Do you know how many hobos like me
are out there where the wind howls?

We gaze up from where her
fire pours over the snow:

because we know she is in there
doing her soft work.