Friday, January 16, 2015

Poem for the Weekend: Claudia Emerson


Claudia Emerson is best known for collection, Late Wife, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006. These poems were inspired by the dissolution of her first marriage, the solitude that followed, and her second marriage. "Artifact" is from this collection. She was a professor of English and the Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and a contributing editor of the literary magazine Shenandoah. Emerson's birthday was this week; she would have been 58. Her obituary is here.

by Claudia Emerson (1957-2014)

For three years you lived in your house
just as it was before she died: your wedding
portrait on the mantel, her clothes hanging
in the closet, her hair still in the brush.
You have told me you gave it all away
then, sold the house, keeping only the confirmation
cross she wore, her name in cursive chased
on the gold underside, your ring in the same

box, those photographs you still avoid,
and the quilt you spread on your borrowed bed–
small things. Months after we met, you told me she had
made it, after we had slept already beneath its loft
and thinning, raveled pattern, as though beneath
her shadow, moving with us, that dark, that soft.


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"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka