They Are Not Calling to You: Featured Poetry by Paige Ackerson-Kiely

February 20, 2019

Our new series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem by Paige Ackerson-Kiely from her new book, Dolefully, a Rampart Stands. A great second-person poem is narrated both toward us and past us, its words skimming off our shoulders but leaving marks. “Murmuration” moves far for a relatively short poem—in language, in time, and in tone—a testament to Ackerson-Kiely’s skill and willingness to shift a narrative. We are fully in this world from the poem’s first lines, smooth enough that we want to look up to “the top of the oak tree / or the wires” above, and yet the poem’s route takes us to the power of sound, childhood, and shame.


They are not calling to you
from the top of the oak tree

or the wires stretched
from eaves to transformer 

but they are speaking all the same—

as when you were a child
yelling your own name into a box fan

your voice chopped like the long
slender note of a carrot
in pieces on the floor

swept up by someone else,
someone who scolded
dirty things

should not touch the mouth—
as they threw them all away.

From Dolefully, a Rampart Stands by Paige Ackerson-Kiely, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Paige Ackerson-Kiely.

is a contributing editor for The Millions. He is the culture editor for Image Journal, and a contributor to the Catholic Herald (UK). He has written for Rolling Stone, GQ, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Esquire, and the Kenyon Review. He is the author of Longing for an Absent God and Wild Belief. Follow him at @nickripatrazone and find more of his writing at