debbie millman

Friday, November 24, 2006

Birthday Present: Late Wife

Claudia Emerson is the author of the poetry books Late Wife, Pharaoh, Pharaoh and Pinion: An Elegy, all published in Dave Smith's Southern Messenger Poets series. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Southern Review, Shenandoah, TriQuarterly, New England Review, and other journals. The recipient of a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, she is an associate professor of English at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. She is mindblowingly amazing.

by Claudia Emerson, from the book of poetry Late Wife

I think by now it is time for the second cutting.
I imagine the field, the one above the last

house we rented, has lain in convalescence
long enough. The hawk has taken back the air

above new grass, and the doe again can hide
her young. I can tell you now I crossed

that field, weeks before the first pass of the blade,
through grass and briars, fog — the night itself

to my thighs, my skirt pulled up that high.
I came to what had been our house and stood outside.

I saw her in it. She reminded me of me —
with her hair black and long as mine had been —

as she moved in and then away from the sharp
frame the window made of the darkness.

I confess that last house was the coldest
I kept. In it, I became formless as fog, crossing

the walls, formless as your breath as it rose
from your mouth to disappear in the air above you.

You see, aftermath is easier, opening
again the wound along its numb scar; it is the sentence

spoken the second time — truer, perhaps,
with the blunt edge of a practiced tongue.


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