Malinda Markham's peoms are inspired in part by her fascination with Japanese language, art, and literature. Her reactions to and interpretations of that country's history, culture, and people are in these verses, echoing with the voices and silences of women across time. Markham imagines the experiences of many women: a geisha laments her past in "Geisha Considered as Making," as a mother laments for her daughter's future in "Yield to This." Markham is intrigued with how language tries but ultimately fails to hold memory in place. She grapples with the translation of words and feeling and shows how this failure also brings a searching for belief - a word that repeats throughout these poems - in a world that cannot allow it. Writes Cole Swenson, "Markham's language has the delicacy of the fine bones of the inner ear; it is, itself, a form of listening - to insects, birds, traffic, to the world. Her listening brings things into being, catching the nuances of change, from season to season, culture to culture, impression to language. This is a radiant collection."
About the Author
Malinda Markham received her MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa. She has been published in the Paris Review, Conjunctions, and elsewhere. She teaches at Daito Bunka University in Tokyo.
Read an Excerpt
This is music: Birds scratch a line from treetop to roof. The struck spine rings like a sealed room. A person could identify leaves through the shoulder blades. The tongue glacial, the arms strips of light.
From the right direction, houses billow and curve.
Years later, the man awoke, not remembering his eyes. They were a particular color, he knew, and when he wore a certain shirt, he could leave the house without shaving.
The woman, too, once had eyes.
He painted them for her, the only detail of her face rendered mistaken. Snow falls, and the picture is grainy.
I am old, he thinks, though this doesn’t help.
The birds that chattered in the trees above the school have left us with the sound of wings and the smell of smoke in our hair. For three nights now, only one star has graced the curve of the moon. The sky is silenced: We cannot move, who gauge our way by stories lit above our heads. Before dawn, a uniformed man tossed a wire loop around a stray dog’s neck.
For the first time, I remembered my fear. This is a city where teams of men shout at once, then return the fields to their usual calm. No letters arrive. The doll left as a gift for the previous tenant is faceless as I am, as pale.
Robed in mustard and red, she has no features, her head smooth as a spool. I love her best for she has no arms: She holds another no better than I.
The doll will crumble if left at the door. Already, ash powders her hair. At night, we call our solitudes equal, one as still as milk, the other gentle as the dust that mutes her. We have become a town spoken of in stories. One forgets there are actual stones to bruise the knees when we fall.
Copyright © 2002 by Malinda Markham. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Carol Muske-Dukes xi
Woman Bathing 3 Instruction (Against Limited Disaster) 5 Being Glass 6 Things That Seldom Remain in Place 7 Geisha Considered as Making 9 Calculate Where to Begin 10 Topographical Concern 11 Anatomy of Resemblance 12 Postcard—a memory carried in the body 13 Equation 14 Recalling the Start 15 Before the River Freezes in Place 17 Yield to This 19
The Field of Choice. And Choosing. 23 Being Glass, the Glint of Sun 26 The Border Between 27 Gift 28 Prime Movement and Other Divinations 29 What Magnitudes Sing Us 31 Affair Ending in Touch 32 Because the Cup Is Furred, I Cannot Drink 33 Museum Rehearsal 34 Postcard—Without Grace 39
Gold Filigree Sharp on the Neck 43 Conversation in Likeness 45 Hôtel des Pyrénées 46 Oblivion Fruit 48
A History of Vinegar and Reprieve 49 Persimmons and a Kind of Regret 53 Survival & Disembodied Existence 54 Mistranslate (Because Meaning Is Not Enough) 55 To Recant What Is Needed 57 Five Stories of Demand 58 First Received 60 The Perceptible World 61