Everyday People

Ana Božičević
October 21, 2022
Lourens Smak / Alamy Stock Photo

In the haze of daily tasks, it’s easy to convince myself that the quotidian lives apart from the remarkable; history, it sometimes seems, is something that takes place elsewhere. So when I first read Ana Božičević’s “Everyday People,” the opening line—“Everyday people do remarkable things”—rhymed with a familiar pep talk, hollowed by its elision of power: You, too, can make your life matter! But if the poem traverses the familiar, its routes defamiliarize my relationship to what I take for granted. Estranging me from the material of my ordinary living (everyday people are ones who “enter small metal pods / And glide through / The Atmosphere”), “Everyday People” restores mystery to what has sedimented into common sense—opening a space for questioning the matter of the daily from which, after all, eras are made. Where the idea of the ordinary dulls my awareness that I might join with others to forge a meaningful alternative to what is, Božičević’s poem enlivens me to a wideness of possibility. By the poem’s final gesture, I want to relinquish the very page I’m writing on, but it’s too late. I’m already here—bearing the violence that brought us to this point, jostling against the otherwise, which is in us, too.

Claire Schwartz

Listen to Ana Božičević read "Everyday People."

Everyday People

Everyday people do remarkable things They print new organs Then insert them under the heart Perform flawless gymnastics Routines They enter small metal pods And glide through The atmosphere To the airless space beyond They compose symphonies Everyday people do impossible things Bury their child on a warm Spring day then make A fresh pot of coffee Feel pity and even forgiveness For the person who wronged them Stupidly, cruelly Walk to the top of a mountain And swim under ice And still Everyday people commit unspeakable crimes They beat the bodies of elders Who need their care Tear children from parents And put walls between them Wipe out whole species Level cities to nothing Put poison in rivers And on the trees they killed Write beautiful poems . . .

Ana Božičević is the author of Joy of Missing Out, the Lambda Award-winning Rise in the Fall—both from Birds, LLC—and other big and small books of poems. Her next book, New Life, is forthcoming from Wave Books in 2023.