Poems / June 6, 2024

Controlled Burning/A Love Poem for the Hill

Tyree Daye

Because the valley was full of mirrors
holding themselves toward the light
we turned our bodies to the side
to face the controlled burning of that day

an abandoned slapboard house in our plain town

up in flames
& falling down
inside itself

The town was a bathtub full of oranges
four children threw their arms up
in the chicken feathered air

Before the house fell inward
we felt the premonition of its falling
and said our grandmamas’ names

the unkempt gardenia eating the windows bent back into roots
& lifted in the windthe light turned into a sleeve of blades

a rain fell that was not enough & only ignited the glare

we kept our heads downafraid we would change into luster
& would not return to our bodiesour devotion

A ghost because we have so manyshouted in the white firemen’s ears
then turnedrunning toward the center of townthe brilliance
not aware of us and our deadbecame twice itself  
so we could not tell the distance between density & beauty
a light we wanted to take our uncles’ hammers to

Our legs if they were our legswere trying to flee
to become unbound
the same soil under our mamas’ nails
was under oursso we wondered if we were unworthy
of the shiningthe boards’ splitting sounded like falling trees
the smell of a thousand burned-down forests making us
look at ourselves in the city water

mud all over what we thought was ours

Dear reader,

I hope you enjoyed the article you just read. It’s just one of the many deeply-reported and boundary-pushing stories we publish everyday at The Nation. In a time of continued erosion of our fundamental rights and urgent global struggles for peace, independent journalism is now more vital than ever.

As a Nation reader, you are likely an engaged progressive who is passionate about bold ideas. I know I can count on you to help sustain our mission-driven journalism.

This month, we’re kicking off an ambitious Summer Fundraising Campaign with the goal of raising $15,000. With your support, we can continue to produce the hard-hitting journalism you rely on to cut through the noise of conservative, corporate media. Please, donate today.

A better world is out there—and we need your support to reach it.


Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

Tyree Daye

Tyree Daye was raised in Youngsville, North Carolina. He is the author of the poetry collections a little bump in the earth (2024), Cardinal (2020), and River Hymns (2017), winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize.

More from The Nation

A scene from “Evil Does Not Exist”.

The Inhuman Gaze of “Evil Does Not Exist” The Inhuman Gaze of “Evil Does Not Exist”

Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s new film, an eco-thriller set in a sylvan Japanese town, explores the messy entanglements of human, machine, and nature that make up planetary existence.

Books & the Arts / Phoebe Chen

Nation Poetry

Royal Pardon Royal Pardon

A female welder. Circa 1930s–1940s.

A Sweeping History of the Black Working Class A Sweeping History of the Black Working Class

By focusing on the Black working class and its long history, Blair LM Kelley’s book, Black Folk, helps tell the larger story of American democracy over the past two and a half cen...

Books & the Arts / Robert Greene II

Joni Mitchell being interviewed in 1972 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Seeing Ourselves in Joni Mitchell Seeing Ourselves in Joni Mitchell

Ann Powers’s deeply personal biography of Joni Mitchell looks at how a generation of listeners came to identify with the folk singer’s intimate songs.

Books & the Arts / David Hajdu

Central Park Tower, One57, and 111 West 57th Street, 2022.

What’s the Deal With Manhattan’s Pencil-Thin High Rises? What’s the Deal With Manhattan’s Pencil-Thin High Rises?

A walk along 57th Street.

Books & the Arts / Karrie Jacobs

A splitscreen image of a headshot of author Essie Chambers alongside the cover of her debut novel, Swift River.

A New Novel Explores How to Develop Black Identity in the Absence of Black Culture A New Novel Explores How to Develop Black Identity in the Absence of Black Culture

In Essie Chambers’s debut novel, Swift River, protagonist Diamond Newberry finds ways to fill the gaps in her family tree.

Kali Holloway