Poetry Mountain

Poetry Mountain: online journal
Contemporary Poets Archive
Classic Poets Archive
Literary Magazines
In-Print Poetry Books (Search)
Writing Contests
Award Winners
Funding Opportunities
Writing Programs
General Resources
For Students
For Teachers
About This Site

The Shadow Waters blog

Donate to Site

Contact Us
Found broken links?
Want something added?
Get our eNewsletter

Claudia Emerson won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her book Late Wife: Poems (LSU Press).  She is the author of two previous poetry collections, Pinion: An Elegy and Pharoah, Pharoah.  Her work has been published in many journals and magazines, including The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Blackbird, Poetry, Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, Chattahoochee Review, Five Points, and Visions International.  An associate professor of English at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Emerson has also been the recipient of Associated Writing Program’s Intro Award, the Academy of American Poets Prize, and the Mary Washington College Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Award.

Five Poems from Blackbird archive
Audio Recording of Claudia Emerson reading in 2005


Four Poems:


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.

[from Late Wife (2005)]


The Spanish Lover

There were warnings: he had, at forty, never
married; he was too close to his mother,
calling her by her given name, Manuela,
ah, Manuela — like a lover; even her face

had bled, even the walls, giving birth to him;
she still had saved all of his baby teeth
except the one he had yet to lose, a small
eyetooth embedded, stubborn in the gum.

I would eat an artichoke down to its heart,
then feed the heart to him. It was enough
that he was not you — and utterly foreign,
related to no one. So it was not love.

So it ended badly, but to some relief.
I was again alone in my bed, but not
invisible as I had been to you —
and I had learned that when I drank sherry

I was drinking a chalk-white landscape, a distant
poor soil; that such vines have to suffer; and that
champagne can be kept effervescent by putting
a knife in the open mouth of the bottle.

[from Late Wife (2005)]



The camera is trained on the door, no one
in the frame, only the dog sleeping. And then
finally, I see this was to surprise you,
filming your arrival, the dog's delight. Only now,
six years distant, can this seem scripted, meant:
the long, blank minutes she waited, absent
but there — behind the lens — as though she directs
me to notice the motion of her chest
in the rise and fall of the frame, and hear

to understand the one cough, nothing, the clearing
of her throat. Then, at last, you come home
to look into the camera she holds,
and past her into me — invisible, unimagined
other who joins her in seeing through our
transience the lasting of desire.

[from Late Wife (2005)]


It was first dark when the plow turned it up.
Unsown, it came fleshless, mud-ruddled, nothing
but itself, the tendon's bored eye threading
a ponderous needle. And yet the pocked fist
of one end dared what was undone
in the strewing, defied the mouth of the hound
that dropped it.
            The whippoorwill began
again its dusk-borne mourning. I had never
seen what urgent wing disembodied
the voice, would fail to recognize its broken
shell or shadow or its feathers strewn
before me. As if afraid of forgetting,
it repeated itself, mindlessly certain.
I threw the bone toward that incessant claiming,
and watched it turned by rote, end over end over end.

[from Pinion: An Elegy (2002)]




Advertise With Us

    [The above poems are copyrighted by the listed author. The poems were excerpted from longer worsk for the purpose of promoting the author and his or her poetry.]      
Last Updated: Tue, June 27, 2006
©2006 John Struloeff -- All Rights Reserved.