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Three 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.

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.


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.

Claudia Emerson
Late Wife
Louisiana State University Press

Copyright © 2005 by Claudia Emerson.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.

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