By Ai 1947–2010 Ai
Overhead, the match burns out,
but the chunk of ice in the back seat
keeps melting from imagined heat,
while the old Hudson tiptoes up the slope.   
My voile blouse, so wet it is transparent,   
like one frightened hand, clutches my chest.
The bag of rock salt sprawled beside me wakes, thirsty   
and stretches a shaky tongue toward the ice.

I press the gas pedal hard.
I’ll get back to the house, the dirt yard, the cesspool,   
to you out back, digging a well
you could fill with your sweat,
though there is not one reason I should want to.   
You never notice me until the end of the day,   
when your hand is on my knee
and the ice cream, cooked to broth,
is hot enough to burn the skin off my touch.

Ai, “Disregard” from Cruelty (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973). Copyright © 1973 by Ai. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Cruelty (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1973)

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Poet Ai 1947–2010

Subjects Men & Women, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse



Ai is a poet noted for her uncompromising poetic vision and bleak dramatic monologues which give voice to marginalized, often poor and abused speakers. Though born Florence Anthony, she legally changed her name to Ai which means “love” in Japanese. She has said that her given name reflects a “scandalous affair my mother had with a Japanese man she met at a streetcar stop” and has no wish to be identified “for all eternity” with . . .

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SUBJECT Men & Women, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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