[To read an introduction to this column, please see the first paragraph of the initial post here]
This week I would like to feature the contemporary poet Aria Aber, whose work I admire. This is her most recent poem published in the New Yorker. The poem also references another poem by a different poet I enjoy, and that poem is given below as well.
Dirt and Light
Last night it startled me again – I dreamed
of the corn maze through which we walked,
almost a decade ago, in the presence
of our other lovers. It was all burned down.
Purple corn glowed in the fields enveloping
the ruined maze, the woodlands washed
by October sun. Instead of you, I found in the salt-white music
of that familiar landscape an old piano, hollowed
by the draft of time, and the handle of a porcelain cup
in scorched soil. Relics of an imagined,
civil life. Today, in the lemony light by your grave,
I recited Merrill: Why did I flinch? I loved you, then touched
the damp and swelling mud, blue hyacinths
your mother planted there –
ants were swarming the unfinished plot of earth
like the black text of an infinite alphabet. I couldn’t
read it. There was no epiphany, just dirt, the vast curtain
between this realm and the other. You never speak to me,
I thought, not even in dreams.
For hours, I sat there, mocked by the bees –
silly girl, their golden faces laughed, she still wants
and wants. A warm gust shook the trees,
and a pigeon settled into the dusk
of a wet pine, and then another.
The Mad Scene
Again last night I dreamed the dream called Laundry.
In it, the sheets and towels of a life we were going to share,
The milk-stiff bibs, the shroud, each rag to be ever
Trampled or soiled, bled on or groped for blindly,
Came swooning out of an enormous willow hamper
Onto moon-marbly boards. We had just met. I watched
From outer darkness. I had dressed myself in clothes
Of a new fiber that never stains or wrinkles, never
Wears thin. The opera house sparkled with tiers
And tiers of eyes, like mine enlarged by belladonna,
Trained inward. There I saw the cloud-clot, gust by gust,
Form, and the lightning bite, and the roan mane unloosen.
Fingers were running in panic over the flute’s nine gates.
Why did I flinch? I loved you. And in the downpour laughed
To have us wrung white, gnarled together, one
Topmost mordent of wisteria,
As the lean tree burst into grief.