My Life

This is a daunting title for a poem, but Lynn Emanuel pulls it off:

My Life

Like Jonas by the fish I was received by it,
swung and sept in its dark waters,
driven to the deeps by it and beyond many rocks.
Without any touching of its teeth, I tumbled  into it
with no more struggle than a mote of dust
entering the door of a cathedral, so muckle were its jaws.
How heel over head I was hurled down
the broad road of its throat, stopped inside
its chest wide as a hall, and like Jonas I stood up
asking where the beast was and finding it nowhere,
there in grease and sorrow I built my bower.

Lynn Emanuel

from Noose and Hook

This appeared in the NY Times Magazine in 2015 with the illustration above.

Lynn Emanuel on Monday

I’ve posted poems by Lynn Emanuel twice before, but I can’t resist posting this one, which feels so appropriate at this moment when everything is so provisional. I was lucky to meet Lynn and her husband when Lynn came to read at Marin Poetry Center two years ago. Larry did a wonderful broadside of her poem, “Blond Bombshell.”¬† Lynn was generous enough to blurb my new book, which also endears me to her. And on top of all that, I love this poem:

My Life

Like Jonas by the fish was I received by it,
swung and swept in its dark waters,
driven to the deeps by it and beyond many rocks.

Without any touching of its teeth I tumbled into it
and without more struggle than a mote of dust
entering the door of a cathedral, so muckle were its jaws.

How heel over head was I hurled down

the broad road of its throat, stopped inside
its chest wide as a hall, and like Jonas I stood up

asking where the beast was and finding it nowhere,

there in grease and sorrow I built my bower.

 

Lynn Emanuel
The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected

 

Lynn Emanuel

This wonderful poet is coming to read here next week. I have posted one of her poems before, but thought I’d post another, from her book “The Dig.” This poem, as many in the book describe a childhood at the edge, with unreliable caretakers. The description of “wringing of every cent from every dollar,” resonated with me, and I love the details of the description.

The Red Kimono

I stare at the brass scarred by beating until
it is as bright and uneven as a lake in August when the sun
melts all reflections into one wide gold zero, when the sky
itself is wide, is hot as the bell that this schoolmaster,
inappropriately strict, tips to summon the children from the unrelenting
heat of noon. The long tape unrolls from the teeth of the adding
machine onto the scarred deal. Over and over the budget unreels
and spills, liberated from the sprockets and machinery of will.
My mother sits with a pencil and ticks her teeth, we are broke,
every avenue of escape is closed, even the car tires at the curb
are fat black zeros, all the scheming and coaxing, the wringing
of every cent from every dollar, has come to nothing. I watch
my mother swab up the dust, her hair tied in a rag, her naked
feet, nails bloodied by a tiny brush. Misery, misery, the cranes
of good luck hunch at the snowy mountain of her left breast
as she bends to set the empties on the step in the housecoat
the landlady lent.

Lynn Emanuel, from The Dig