The Poetry Corner – 30 March 2021

[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

         (James Merrill)


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.

Eli Neumann

Eli is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan majoring in English literature and minoring in Chinese Language and Culture. His column The Poetry Corner showcases poetry from around the world to let people see the beautiful and important work poets are doing in our time.

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