September 10, 2017

Eric Steineger

SHE

after John Ashbery

She delves the box of snow covered candles.
She chooses not to elaborate.
She smiles listening to the storm.
She harbors a fugitive penguin.

She can eat sixty eggs in an hour.
She dreams of riding in a hot air balloon.
She keeps it going, the engine
In the mirror, she stares a long time.

She has brown hair—at an angle.
She disappeared. If you try and contact her
An operator greets you in Thai.
She’s known to wear a blindfold in public.

She works on cars only to destroy them.
She used to carve ice sculptures for buffets.
She says “Boomsies.” The hostages are freed.
She lugs a harp through the airport.

She plays in the aisle.
She is her own unique heirloom.
She owns a sprightly pair of pliers.
She dips her hand in the phone’s dark lake.

She thinks the Prime Minister ought to “simma’ down.”
She is over the novelty of it.
She swings by the beach for a sample.
She wears boots to the wedding.

She has never missed a day.
She puts cinnamon on everything.
She started a band called Dyslexic Dear.
She thrives in the boxcar impulse.

She is a secret to everybody, though
She’ll crumple notes and leave them there
On desks, she’s the heart carving.
She totaled five cars—on Tuesday. Don’t worry.
She is protected by a gold talisman.
She bathed the artichoke in acidulated water.
She follows the fox back to its habitat.
She threw eggs but missed and hit the lectern.

She staples the magnets together.
She lets the spider go.
She wants the bad news first.
She trembles holding the review:

“She, unlike her supporting cast, is.
She’s fine saying nothing. Everything.
She, whose face appears quietly ravenous.”
She pulls from a box that contains her whole life.

from Poets Respond
September 10, 2017

[download audio]

__________

Eric Steineger: “John Ashbery died last Sunday, and I wrote “She” to pay tribute to his legacy. Looking back to Some Trees, his first collection and winner of The Yale Younger Poetry Prize, I found a poem ‘He’ that I used as a model. More than anyone, Ashbery gave me permission to bring new things into a poem, to come at a poem differently than I had seen done before.”

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