Still Life When All Our Symptoms Seem to Have Symptoms of Their Own

Julia Guez

the dark is very darkon the night-side of things,long is very long.My heart is featheredfire, smallestflying flag,wings are sad,sad, singingnot at all slow.My heartclosesin on itself notunlike a peonywhose own process ofbecoming has beenset back untilthe open-handedflower is tight and greenlike a fist, poor thing isthrumming in thisinvisible glass casewhich is also a framewhere the mostcontagious are takento be alonethere all together,praying the same prayer—

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Wesley Mann

Julia Guez is a writer and translator based in the city of New York. The Certain Body is her second collection of poetry, written while she was recovering from COVID in the spring of 2020.

For her poetry, fiction and translations, Guez has been awarded the Discovery/Boston Review Prize, a Fulbright Fellowship and The John Frederick Nims Memorial Prize in Translation as well as a translation fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

She holds degrees from Rice and Columbia. For the last decade, Guez has worked with Teach For America, New York; she teaches creative writing at NYU and Rutgers. You can find out more of her work online at

"In this sublime second collection, Julia Guez makes exquisite patterning from the warp and weft of elegy and ode. The astonishment and clarity of these poems arrive in how they locate themselves within multiple intersecting crises-that of ecological degradation, an unfurling pandemic, conditions of precarity, and failures of the human body and the body politic-to record the velocity and vibrations of grief, and all that grief makes audible. Still, in the face of loss and its erosions, 'we / may as well sing,' insists Guez. And what rises, from The Certain Body's limpid lines, are the warm, charged notes of a collective body, which searches for defiant modes of survival. In this, Guez has fashioned a profound and vital rallying song out of a requiem."
— Jenny Xie

"If you put your ear to a conch shell, you might be able to hear one of Guez's poems whispering at you with ocean's breath. They feel that intimate, these poems, like secrets harvested from 'the small hands of the wind'. Guez's way with language is delicate and deft, a litany, in the tradition of Lorde, for survival. The Certain Body meditates on the magical and mundane cycle of life, living, death, and surviving in the Covid era. 'What will survive of us?' Guez wonders. Let us pray this collection, its beauty, its certainty, its ability to 'fix the image in memory,' will outlive us all."
— t'ai freedom ford

The Certain Body, Julia Guez’s brilliant second book, takes up the conversation between the textual body and the living body, excavating the space connecting the body of memory and the embodied memory. This collection is vivid and alive, utilizing a spareness and precision only possible in the lyric. Love, loss, illness, family, and desire—Guez shows us again and again how a poem can be a blade that cuts to the heart of the experiences we share.”
— Sam Sax

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.