Copia (American Poets Continuum Series)
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Because it is an uninhabited place, because it
makes me hollow, I pried open the pages of
Detroit: the houses blanked out, factories
absorbed back into ghetto palms and scrub-
oak, piles of tires, heaps of cement block.
Vines knock and enter through shattered
drop-ceilings, glassless windows. Ragwort
cracks the street's asphalt to unsolvable
Erika Meitner was a 2009 National Poetry Series winner. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Tin House, The Best American Poetry 2011, Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She is associate professor of English at Virginia Tech.
like cats got at a skein of yarn, and a tattoo above her ankle that’s dark and unspecified. It’s far enough above her ankle that it’s nearly midcalf—like her ankle and calf are two different countries and the tattoo got lost in the borderlands on the way to its actual destination. The poem in which I am territory that is under dispute and no one will occupy it because of fear and uncertainty. The poem in which I reach the conclusion that this feeling is inspired by your mother and the way she
erected towers to try to bounce their signals off the moon. My son thinks their metal scaffolding is the Eiffel Tower—thinks all metal towers are the Eiffel Tower ever since we read him that book which features a world-traveling pig. We have come to feed the ducks stale potato buns. Every time my son tosses a hunk he is mobbed by ducks whose feathers glint in the light. They both terrify and delight him. Each duck has an electric blue racing stripe, a wing-feather the color of a
on the inside of my wrist back then it might have been a Venn diagram: your contented breath, six glove-box necessities, the muffled places detritus would take us. STAKING A CLAIM It seems a certain fear underlies everything. If I were to tell you something profound it would be useless, as every single thing I know is not timeless. I am particularly risk-averse. I choose someone else over me every time, as I’m sure they’ll finish the task at hand, which is to say that whatever is in
walked off anywhere with him until one day we both landed in California when I was still young, and going West meant taking a laptop and some clothes in a hatchback and learning about produce. I can turn toward you, whoever you are, and say you are my lover simply because I say you are, and that is, I realize, a tautology, but this is my poem. I claim nothing other than what I write, and even that, I’d leave by the wayside, since the only thing to pack would be the candlesticks, and
fertsn fuftsn zekhtsn the ark shuts in a flash of white an arm crossing the heart the chest a house for the body is rending of garments—a curtain’s pull zibetsn akhtsn nayntsn tsvantsik Zichron Moshe, Adath Israel, Ward Avenue Shul and who knows what shteebles are demolished are churches now this second post-war shtetl of ladies and gentlemen the Bronx is burning is burned the congregation sighs into their seats and I think of cousin Freddy’s story about the Rabbi (name long