I've been struggling to comprehend the numbers lately. Nearly 700 dead. Over 12,000 infected. These figures describe the numbers of those suffering or no longer suffering from an illness, but not the complexity of the lives they represent. Newspapers write good profiles of some of them. Others appear in the obit pages. But otherwise we don't hear the stories when we hear the numbers, which must make it much easier for some to do crazy shit like rally in capitals so governors will open up the dealerships again.

That nonsense aside, James Galvin, who teaches poetry at the University of Iowa, does a much better job of describing this desire for particularity in a world that flattens so much of experience in one of my favorite poems of all time, "Cherry Blossoms Blowing In Wet, Blowing Snow." If you have a subscription to the New Yorker, you can read it in the archives. If you don't, you can read this bootleg version on some Ace Hotel blog that is still somehow alive. The blogger did not preserve Galvin's actual line spacing, which features lines scattered across the page sort of like cherry blossoms blowing in wet blowing snow, but it's close enough.

A few notes:

• It is incredibly difficult to make the story of your deepest and most complex love matter, especially in a poem. The ground has been well covered. Who gives a fuck, for instance, that you had a good but risky time in Spain? And how sad is it that a fundamental part of the story of your love can be reduced to the phrase "a good but risky time in Spain?" But Galvin gets away with it here by using a classic technique of cinema: the montage. He mixes major life events with minor life events, linking each scene by repeating the word "in," which, if you did not know, is an old Greek rhetorical move called "anaphora." This repetition creates an incantatory effect, which adds a religious weight to the supercut of the marriage he's describing.

• But the recognizable narrative and the repetition of "in" isn't all that link each of these seemingly disparate lines together. Once the poem really gets going (which, for me, is after "In watery deserts...," though that opening line is killer), each line is a piece of evidence that embodies the poem's conclusion, which is at once an assertion and a genuine question: "Among cherry / blossoms blowing in wet, blowing snow, weren’t we something?" Just as cherry blossoms (good) and snow (bad) are difficult to tell apart, so is it difficult for the speaker to see the difference between pain and pleasure, desserts and seas, sickness and health—and was the sex in the hammock under the aspen good, or was the sex in the hammock even possible? All of those connections don't appear to be connections as you're reading the poem, but then Galvin wraps them all into that single lovely image at the end, which is what helps make the poem feel so satisfying.