A Harper Perennial Paperback Original
Recipient of the 2009 National Poetry Series Prize as chosen by Paul Guest
“Erika Meitner is the new voice of intelligent and emotional poems. Good for poetry. Good for poetry lovers. Good for the rest of us, too.” — Nikki Giovanni
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•Author Website: ErikaMeitner.com
My heart is an Alaskan fishing village during whaling season,
which is to say that everyone is down by the thawing sea.
The huts on stilts are empty, and my heart is a harpoon,
a home-made velveteen parka, hood lined with wolverine.
My mouth has no zipper, which helps me remember
how to say O. O I miss home. When I close my eyes,
I see the F train’s twin headlights blooming into the station.
When I close my eyes, its warm wind sweeps hair from my face,
the way my grandmother did with her hands, to see my eyes.
Home is the place with plastic slipcovers on the couch.
Home is the place with heavy brown shoes misaligned at the door.
When I close my eyes, I look for an entryway into the earth.
I dream of a porcupine, though I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen one.
I dream of my dead friend, who has no voice, but tells me to slow down.
We walk together to the neighborhood bar. It is summer. It is night.
I have no choice. In my dream, my dead friend gives me a fish.
I roll it up like a newspaper. I put a toothpick in it and we walk slowly to Brooklyn.
My words don’t mean anything, because right now my son is coughing
in another room. I can hear him through the walls. He sits up
in his crib and waits for me. The world is a hollow white door;
when I close my eyes, it spins like a dime on tile. It spins
like something gentle knocked off a table. One day, my heart
will ascend from the subway tunnel. It will burst into daylight
past the Court Street Station. My heart is a chainsaw, an awl
boring through leather. My heart is old-school graffiti-a tag
that zigs on metal, gets applause when it pulls into the station-
it’s that uplifting. Some days the world is too lonely. My heart
wants to play chess with another heart inside my body.