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In eloquent poems about Ariadne, Theseus, and Dido, the death of a father, a bombing raid in Lebanon, and in a magnificent series detailing Masaccio’s Brancacci frescoes, The Selvage deftly traces the “line between” the “wonder and woe” of human experience. Keenly attuned to the precariousness of our existence in a fractured world—of “how little the world will spare ...
In eloquent poems about Ariadne, Theseus, and Dido, the death of a father, a bombing raid in Lebanon, and in a magnificent series detailing Masaccio’s Brancacci frescoes, The Selvage deftly traces the “line between” the “wonder and woe” of human experience. Keenly attuned to the precariousness of our existence in a fractured world—of “how little the world will spare us”—Gregerson explores the cruelty of human and political violence, such as the recent island massacre in Norway and “the current nightmare” of war and terrorism. And yet, running as a “counterpoint” to violence and cruelty is “The reigning brilliance / of the genome and / the risen moon . . . ,” “The / arachnid’s exoskeleton. The kestrel’s eye.” The Selvage is the boldest evidence yet that Linda Gregerson’s unique combination of dramatic lyricism and fierce intelligence transcends current fashions to claim an enduring place in American poetry.
So door to door among the shotgun shacks in Cullowhee and Waynesville in our cleanest shirts and ma’am and excuse me were all but second
nature now and this one woman comes to the door she must have weighed three hundred pounds Would you be willing to tell us who you plan to vote
for we say and she turns around with
Everett who’re we voting for? The black guy says Everett. The black guy she says except that wasn’t the language
they used they used the word we’ve all agreed to banish from even our innermost thoughts, which is when
I knew he was going to win.
At which point the speaker discovers,
as if the lesson were new,
she has told the story at her own expense.
Amazing, said my sister’s chairman’s
second wife, to think what you’ve amounted to considering where you’re from,
which she imagined was a compliment.
One country, friends. Where when
we have to go there, as, depend upon it, fat or thin, regenerate or blinkered-to-the-end, we shall,
they have to take us in. I saw
a riverful of geese as I drove home across our one-lane bridge. Four hundred of them easily, close-massed against the current and the bitter wind (some settled on the ice) and just
the few at a time who’d loosen rank to gather again downstream. As if to paraphrase. The fabric every minute bound
by just that pulling-out that holds the raveling together. You were driving all this time? said Steven. Counting geese? (The snow falling into the river.)
No. (The river about to give itself over to ice.) I’d stopped.
Their wingspans, had they not been taking shelter here, as wide as we are tall.
The fine fourth finger of his fine right hand,
just slightly, when he’s tracking our path
on his iPhone or repairing the clasp
on my watch I
will not think about
the myelin sheath.
Slight tremor only,
transient, so the flaw in the
pavement must have been my
Smothered up in gauze, the sky’s
been healing for a week or
two, conserving its basin of gruel.
The shops have closed
in sympathy. The ferry’s ministrations
barely mark the hour. And just
when we’d convinced ourselves that
beauty unsubdued betrays
a coarsened mind, the fabric starts
to loosen, lift, and daylight
all unblighted takes a gaudy good-
night bow. What sodden
indistinction just an hour ago had all
but persuaded us not to
regret resumes its first divisions:
slate from cinder, ash
from smoke, warm dapple-gray from
moleskin, dove- from
Quaker-gray from taupe, until
the blackwater satins unroll their
gorgeous lengths above a sharpening
partition of lake-and-loam.
Give up yet? says the cirro-strato-sable
brush. Then watch
what I can do with orange. And,
flood-lit, ink-besotted, so
assails the upper atmosphere that
all our better judgment
fails. The Alps? They’ve seen it all
before. They’ve flattened
into waiting mode. The people?
Flat bedazzled. But
in fairness had a shorter way to fall.
The Selvage 1
Pajama Quotient 4
Slight Tremor 7
Slaters’ Measure 10
Lately, I’ve taken to 21
Getting and Spending 25
Ariadne in Triumph 31
Theseus Forgetting 35
Dido Refuses to Speak 38
From the Life of Saint Peter 49
Her Argument for the Existence of God 58
Ovid in Exile 64
“. . . More Instructive Than a Long Trip to Europe” 69
Still Life 72