Poems of the Week




Muskrats enter the trap
for the apple, the lure

we’ve secured with a nail.
They can’t be saved,

nesting the banks, cloudy-
eyed, whiskered hunger

deep as our own. They
mate and breed. Where they die

in the cold: frogs, crayfish
gleam, cattail roots, scat

steaming. We lift them—
seven dollars a pelt—

into the boat, fur matted, legs
cage-snagged as if punishment

for feeding. Into water
they come rippling,

immeasurable. Where
it begins. Where it ends.

That feeling. So many names:
mud cat, mud beaver, heart-

stopped in the rushes, snared.


Birthday Girl with Possum

No one wants to come
too near. It’s wild,
might climb out of her
arms, with its claws like
loops of gray icing. She
stares up at us, animals
poised to bellow. What
don’t we want.


Tabula Rosa

Enter into testimony: the name Beloved.
An inmost calm cannot abide in this.
As I am often told—
the long walk by the roaring sea
the long walk roaring by the sea
made not unknowing nor without cease

yet planed smooth along the corded vein—
though sand be not the sculpted grain, nor wood,
though walking be not grieving, nor the plane.


It is Virtually Without
Thickness and Has Almost

no weight. If rubbed between forefinger
and thumb, it will fade
into nothing. If dropped, it hardly seems
to flutter downwards. If it settles
on a hard surface ruffled or folded
it can be straightened out
with a puff of breath, unwrinkling
itself like a shimmering
shaken blanket. It can be
hammered thinner and
thinner without ever
crumbling away. It can
be eaten and seems
to vanish on the tongue,
but a good translation
should have some memory
of its original language: The statue lies
in a freshly excavated hole, dirt
and rocks tossed into
the bushes but robes
still clinging to her breasts
and thighs. The man standing
next to her, visible only
above the knee, has laid aside
his shovel: one hand rests on what’s left
of her arm while the other brushes
her stone hair
once read The past tense
of sit is satin and as the world
rolls into dusk, everything is
quiet except for a robin
breaking small pieces of light
in its beak: the less light, the more
fragrant the lilac grows


all from Ninth Letter 6.1 (Spring/Summer 2009), Ed. Jodee Stanley

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