In Memory of Freud

The motion of water is a lie, we are what moves
over it, to Brindisi or Lisbon,
faces on a ferry looking

at the silver bangles
the water wears.
You missed the beginning when

we were water
and light. What you always believed
you knew is a mistranslation.

No one wants to say
what has really been said. Stand
at the edge of the cliff

to remember whales and water buffalo,
signet rings and stone. Walk out to the pier.
Take in the length

of our yearnings. We were never meant
to walk over water. We were
meant to immerse ourselves

and recall how to move. Go back
in time to beyond time: what were you
doing when minerals formed?

Go back some more and tell me this fossil
is a bone that was your hand.
Maybe you are missing the chapter on Plague

or the chapter that tells you not to
practice in public what you secretly anoint.
These are episodes in the story, not the whole

story, so think of love
and loss as twins that argue then make up
when the air parts

and produces a grammar
of solitude. If the symbol
of longing

is a wire that winds
the circumference of the earth,
you must get on your knees.

—Margot Schilpp


MARGOT SCHILPP’s two books of poetry are The World’s Last Night(2001) and Laws of My Nature (2005), both published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. She is at work on a third collection, Civil Twilight, from which the poems here come. Her work has appeared widely in journals, including The Southern Review, LIT, Denver Quarterly, American Letters & Commentary, The Journal, The Gettysburg Review, and Hotel Amerika. She has been granted residencies at Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Fundacíon Valparaíso in Spain, as well as an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Connecticut Council on Culture and Tourism. She teaches at Southern Connecticut State University and at the Educational Center for the Arts, an arts high school in New Haven. She lives with her husband, Jeff Mock, and their daughters Paula and Leah.

It has often been said that there is nothing new under the sun, but Margot Schilpp takes that hurdle with ease by dressing her thoughts in fresh language, thus finding ways to present her surroundings in an original way. With the first poem from, The World’s Last Night, “Red-Winged Blackbird,” she instantly pulls us into her thought patterns and her way of viewing the world:

The barbed wire bends across the field
like a hair out of place, though not exactly.
The platinum sky is bleak and it weeps: gray
all day isn’t the only way of grieving.
Longing is a knife that blunts itself

on the dull muscle of the heart. . . .

Who pointed out the beautiful markings of birds?
Summer’s curtain draws across, red-winged
blackbirds weave into the fence, drag
a crimson thread across the eye.

Who can resist such writing—who would want to?


Published in: on January 23, 2010 at 4:19 PM  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. great poem.
    That boat seems so folorn.
    Makes me reflect

    • I agree. For me, much of Margot Schilpp’s work has a haunting quality that lingers long after its reading. I think she would be quick to agree that the success of the poem is determined not by how much the poet felt in writing it, but by how much the reader feels in reading it.

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