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Poem: [If you want to make it to the moon]

Sometimes the moon looks so close you believe you’ll drive into it on a Friday night. Dan Chiasson is on one with “The Math Campers.” Existential and as real as that looming moon. The book demands to be read as a whole but is funky in the way that math is. If you remember your algebra, you know FOIL governs the order of binomial operations. And “If you want to make it to the moon” is the first of all questions, especially if you have no master and have been forced to name yourself in this world. Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts

Credit…Illustration by R. O. Blechman

[If you want to make it to the moon]

By Dan Chiasson

If you want to make it to the moon,
not halfway, all the way;
if you want to see
the tininess of all your obsessions,

loyalty, et cetera, a speck;
not halfway, all the way;
if you want to see
love exposed as a perspectival trick;

worthwhile, worthless, what you loved —
not halfway, all the way,
a triviality —
then mind what name your master gave.

Bobbing lifelessly beside the story,
halfway, not all the way,
you stand for [ ]


Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer. He created Freedom Reads, an initiative to curate microlibraries and install them in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poetry, “Felon,” explores the post-incarceration experience. His 2018 article in The New York Times Magazine about his journey from teenage carjacker to working lawyer won a National Magazine Award. He is a 2021 MacArthur fellow. Dan Chiasson is a poet whose work includes “The Math Campers” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020). He is the Lorraine C. Wang Professor of English Literature at Wellesley College.

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