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Romance Language

Amy Glynn


About the author

Amy Glynn is a poet and essayist whose work appears widely in journals and anthologies including The Best American Poetry. She is the author of A Modern Herbal (Measure Press, 2013). She has received the Troubadour Prize, The SPUR Award of the Academy of Western Writers, Poetry Northwest’s Carolyn Kizer Award, and two James Merrill House fellowships, among other honors. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works as a college admissions advisor and essay specialist.

Excerpts from Romance Language

Glass Beach, Ft. Bragg

Afterward, the roiled 

detritus washes up for days, shifting but always stuck in the wrack zone’s


back-and-forth. No one owns 

it and no one can really take it away; it has foiled


all remediation 

efforts and it always will. But it does change. Small things accrue


meaning in their accumulation; sharp things do 

lose edge to agitation,


and afterward, 

the tide recedes across a field of silicate and calcium


and vitreous aggregate. It is the sum 

total of everything we will ever break, jettison, discard. 

I admit it: I still fail 

at being happy enough, though I know what the litter becomes when the       tide’s been at it. 

When it’s washed and sunlit 

the wreckage can seem like treasure. Thrust a hand in and pull it back             bleeding, fist full


of sea glass and something sharp you weren’t expecting. I don’t want to sift through all that anymore; it’s all just words, and after words

empty shells even the birds 

know better than to linger over. They were liars, whoever said a long                memory is a gift.


The truth is that the truth is complicated.

The truth is, nothing’s ever all you need

To know. The truth is, truth is overrated Sometimes. And there are fantasies we feed That turn to truth if they are beautiful

Enough. The truth is always in the eye

Of the beholder. Some of us are blind,

As well, and some of us dyed-in-the-wool

Liars. And others predisposed to buy

It, burn, and say the trick is not to mind. 

Tell me again how beautiful you think

I am, how if we found ourselves alone

You’d ravish me. Look! Figures on the brink

Of love forever, wedded to our own 

Imaginings, arrested at the height 

Of wanting it. Remind you of anyone?

Tell me again the things you’re going to do

To me someday. Recant, rekindle, fight Remorse, then tell yourself it’s all in fun Anyway. Not a word of it is true.


The beauty of it is, the truth comes out,

Ugly or not. We know the things we know. Sublime self-saturation, hunger, doubt— Shocking in their refusal to let go. 

The truth: I meant the things I said. I’ve earned As much, but what does being owed the right To something mean? Fair attitude! Escape Artist, dreamer, whoever you are: I’ve learned Truth’s relative, and beauty an insight

We get too late. That’s all. O Attic shape.


Romance Language

A Modern Herbal

Praise for Romance Language

"Amy Glynn’s poems are Linnaean love songs sung by a heart-bruised Sappho. Her brilliant Romance Language thrills to the natural world in all its boggling multiplicity, while reserving a barrage of tart ironies for the fallen humans who inhabit it—the lovers who fail us and those, long-gone, we can never let go of. Glynn understands that science is no check to mystery, that we subsist in “an ocean of cadence” that was here before us: “The beginning was music. There was music first.” Her songs channel that original music “of tide, chaos, and rhythm” with such fierceness and sorrow that we are compelled to listen. Their effect is revelatory. 


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Jan 29, 2024

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353 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

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Prose Collection

From Amy's forthcoming essay collection, My Empire Of Dirt

Find Amy on Goodreads

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