And by Debora Greger, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble


by Debora Greger

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Poems by Debora Greger. Her poems have been published in numerous journals, including The New Yorker, Antaeus, and the American Poetry Review.


Poems by Debora Greger. Her poems have been published in numerous journals, including The New Yorker, Antaeus, and the American Poetry Review.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Greger uncovers an onomatopoeic reality in virtually every verb she usesbob, or scream, or rip, or rage; in her poetry, the sounds of words directly evoke the feelings they describe. She also uses a high and otherworldly diction that is not often found in prose. Hers is the authoritative voice that speaks from dreams, where anything can happen, and all at once. In ``Piranesi in L.A.,'' the Roman artist becomes the presiding spirit for a modern city he never saw; in ``Tristan on Radio,'' the music is transformed into a gloved hand reaching down from the dress circle to resubmerge a toy ship. All that's missing from Greger's luxuriance is the old prosaic quality of directnesssmall sacrifice for such riches as these. November
From the Publisher
"Ms. Greger's poems take place at the point of encounter between the mind and the world of matter. . . . And it is the resistance of the real and the increasing urgency the poet feels in trying to extinguish her solitude . . . that make these poems emotional."The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publication date:
Princeton Legacy Library Series
Product dimensions:
5.84(w) x 8.75(h) x 0.56(d)

Read an Excerpt



By Debora Greger


Copyright © 1985 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-06646-2


    The Shallows

    Rolling pants' legs, bundling skirts,
    they have come down the shore with gunny sacks,

    bird cages, dresses knotted together —
    tonight not the moon but a run of smelt

    silvers the shallows, night water's deep opacity.
    Gray gone black, the wet sand chills, floor-hard

    as long as, like those boys, 1 don't stand still.
    Coaching and taunting, a chorus of spring frogs,

    they leap the fish. Even the woman I've seen
    walking daily in the village is here, the one

    with her arm in a sling and a three-legged dog.
    Her slowed passage rippling the crowd,

    she's the domestic tamely obscured
    by the raucous dark. Down from this inlet,

    a basket of lights lists where the family living
    on the grounded freighter finishes another

    tilted day. Finally, I think, that canted home
    would seem no longer maddening or novel

    but cramped like any other. Out in its vast
    and watery front yard, below the level of all this,

    a cold current tunnels unremittingly north.

    Everyday Things

    Think of the swimming
    that does for flight in dreams — feet
    dragging through leaves, you watch

    yourself climb through a stagy light,
    like this afternoon's, doubly lit
    by lamps and weaker sun. How can you

    not believe the merely visible?
    A boy struggles into costume
    over a harness that's half the magic

    of theatrical flying. Like humans,
    ducks are slipping on the river,
    feet out from under them

    across the ice. Tossed from a window,
    the carrier pigeon charts a course
    as long as the night stays clear,

    leaving me, armchaired, to imagine
    a message worth wingbeats per mile
    as ground traversed brings closer

    nothing but dawn. The chair's
    upholstered wings shelter, stiffly;
    maybe the painter was right about

    a floating world: chair not resting on
    but hovering just above the floor,
    everyday wings keeping us

    from collisions that are touch
    without will. I wanted to be a book —
    pages riffling with pinions,

    coverts, underwings, primary
    and secondary feathers of flight,
    its wings falling open in your hands.

    Book of Hours

    Economically, she gathers her hair in one hand,
    and bends to drink at the fountain.
    You can see down her shirt.

    If this were the beginning of a story,
    you'd think so she is that kind of woman —
    a dancer in street dress who can't

    cover practiced grace. You might
    not be right, just a man who wants
    to sleep with some idea or who's read

    that Chekhov described a character in The Seagull
    simply as wearing checked trousers.
    As in the Limbourgs' miniature of October,

    a gesture illumines or betrays. Everything
    has a little shadow: plowman and beast,
    scarecrow, magpies, man sowing,

    and footprints of that man. At the river
    boats are buoyed by their reflections;
    a washerwoman's image bends back so accurately

    it's an abstract of the momentary. Silhouette
    in the solid light, you're a man like others,
    observing a breast's disembodied curve

    against cloth as if later the violence
    of looking, like so many buttons,
    can be romantically ripped undone.

    Dream Lecture, June

    Today we discuss what the thunder
    said to Mr. Eliot. What do I mean
    by "we" that doesn't include you?
    Take condensation, the very air rising
    to answer rhetorical questions
    on loftier planes. So in his vault
    under the street, through glass
    embedded in the walk, a man could sense
    the light go under, the rushed rain
    of footsteps give way to a condescending
    like footnotes, first syllables suggesting
    common knowledge the rest pointedly deny.
    Even as you mark off another minute,
    eighteen hundred thunderstorms forego
    polite discourse. "Close," we term such air.
    A second, and a hundred lightning bolts
    split charred sentences. This
    is what we mean by "discuss," not
    your family of arguments but
    the clash of charged ions rumbling
    as I tear my notes. You don't believe me.
    Lightning's jags cut the easiest swath
    to earth. But trace them back
    up the whole sky I wave before you,
    chambermaid in a sanatorium beating a rug,
    or patient playing maid, mad at the doctor
    who accused him of being God,
    playing bank clerk at his window,
    pinstripes of rain streaking his pajamas
    where his reflection straightens
    its waistcoat. Banknotes rip
    like bedlinen in the tide of wind.
    Down stone stairs tumbles the realm's coinage
    heavy with heads. What you hear is the kiss
    of tires to wet street, easing away,
    chalk taunting blackboard with erase, erase.
    I'm no sidewalk preacher diagramming
    states of grace before the audience
    that weather's captured in a doorway
    melts off, though the clock
    would have it thus. Next week —
    why, flying upwards toward the sun,
    we freeze.

    Sex and Herodotus

    Say the Persians were right they saw
    no abduction, such women going
    willingly or not at all; still, it comes

    to provinces plundered for metals
    to be coined in a conqueror's likeness —
    the etched profile that he, for all

    his lording it still mortal, couldn't capture.
    Flung, the bronze mirror arced
    a dark moon down. Vain as a slavegirl

    plumped on the greed that is survival,
    a son inherited a war. The historian lied,
    as he had learned, about the boundary

    blurred between want and need.
    To torch crops, not houses, or
    the other way around, is to go down

    as one who, against a blood sky,
    prefigured statues twice his height
    shouldering the blaze of memory

    against unblistered blue. Barrows
    of facts no longer useful were trundled
    to the site of the Acropolis and dumped,

    more fill on the loll of marble heads,
    the chiseled limbs askew. Striking
    knucklebones, the ivory dice of famine,

    the spade rings, dully. The window
    of the Parthenon Restaurant reflects
    on temples of bank and burger joint

    through which honey's preserved light
    drips from racked sweets
    where they've been sliced and smears

    the knife cutting across a man's stony hand
    where it pushes at the small
    of a woman's back to hustle her inside.


    Praised be the hatching heat
    the beautiful boulders under the bridge
    the shit of children with its green flies
    a sea boiling and no end to it

    Love's anger drives you to speech, to curse
    the two-lane road twisting its curves
    so tightly you have to slow, taunted

    by the stream it parallels. Braiding
    like conversation, the creek veneers the digs
    of patience hollowing a tumble of rocks,

    leaving even in dry season polysyllables,
    so many synonyms for pure force,
    passion's simplifications. Water insinuates;

    banks erode until pines lean a roof
    over streambed and then bridge it in collapse.
    You curse that, too, and closeness,

    molecules' reckless cascade; and perseverance,
    mountain ferried grain by grain
    to a distant delta where a farmer skims

    blood-brown pine needles off an irrigation ditch.
    Up here, in boulder's lee, a water strider
    darts toward no safety, no scratch

    in the surface's well-argued tension.
    You curse the swim of oak leaves, light rafts
    quickly swamped. And, crumpled into the slope,

    a car body violently, pastorally rusting
    into some animal's shelter, then alluvium.

    Natural History

    Blue as the scattering of particles
    that is night sky or deep water,
    the whale fins the museum's aquarial light.

    Over footstool-sized vertebrae,
    engraved whalers crest pink waves,
    dwarfed by the hundred pleats

    of a throat. Here on sea floor,
    its land-bound ancestors rear,
    imagined from a few fossils

    down to tear ducts their descendants
    have no use for. Human skeleton,
    whale effigy — with them the Nootka

    induce the dead to call it back to shore,
    where insupportable cause collapses
    under air's clear burden of proof.

    Huge lungs flutter shut
    in the carnivorous air — oil enough
    to burn the tribe's long nights.

    Men swarm the beach like sand fleas,
    closer to sand than to the enormity
    before them, beginning its rot.

    Queen of a Small Country



    Even driven horizontal by seething wind,
    perpendicular to all notions of gravity,
    snow keeps its furious silence
    until streets are raged into stillness.
    What can we speak of civilly
    in the air drowning our footsteps?
    Family of imbalances — is love uncalled for
    squandered or to be returned? Do we turn
    more direct, efficient as a fish-cleaner's knife
    sliding along bones? On the river a single
    ice-fisherman hugs himself in vigil:
    under crust that, unprotesting, bears us
    courses something like a submerged anger,
    surviving this season one air pocket to the next.


    Nights that summer of swing shift,
    sycamores gloved street lights,
    spectral as fingers held over a flashlight,

    skin infused red around twigs of bone —
    inside the body more opaque than night where,
    however cloaked, some presence could always

    be discerned — just a black dog
    sniffing garbage cans. Arms night-pale
    in the available light, breath tearing

    in exuberant rags, I pedaled
    past moth-swarmed porch lights, televisions'
    ghostly gleam, houses vigilant in repose

    where a motherly sentry on a prickly couch
    drowsed. Or a wife lay alert
    for a husband's slackened breathing

    that would give her back to herself
    a moment before sleep took her as well.
    None of these lives was mine.


Things we don't have names for acquire them, like couplings, hardware's "male" and "female" parts, those metaphors part precise, part lewd, that leave us with the consolation of naming — my mother winding home by threads of memorized street names, from those of dead army engineers to those of trees which in that town were mostly memory, too.


    A noon whistle rips air to dust,
    its motes and beams giving substance
    to acute winter light as that mud vessel,
    the body, does. How little resemblance
    our bodies bear our selves —
    Pavlova insisting photos of herself
    be retouched, the feet narrowed
    to the lithographed points of Taglioni.
    Something in me you term beautiful
    that, lacking your definition,
    I can't see. At the limit
    of sighted thought, longing's embodied
    by images as much as by lovers.

    Queen of a small country unplundered
    by school's geography lessons,
    she inherited a land like the town
    I grew in, plantain and clover
    plaited into crowns the short season
    before they dried, as if the present
    were already being told in another person,
    first in the simple past tense, as now,
    and soon in the perfect. Like a body
    of water, a swirled & floats between us.


Excerpted from And by Debora Greger. Copyright © 1985 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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