Today's poem is by Claudia Emerson
from "Girls' School"
The Physical Plant as Prologue
Everything here measures: weight, effort, sin
and everything costs in this seclusion
of daughters, the place an arkits hold
all of a kind in an archaic, combed
order: straightened teeth, trained spines, the chapel's
benches in rigid rows before crimson
kneeling pillows, slim beds in dormitories,
the muted ticking of practice rooms, the stalls
just-mucked, the halls humid with breathing.
And in the brushes, their hairenough to line
the nests of a hundred generations of birds.
Bells sound them from sleep, and their imaginations
rise, recite all they have been told: the curtains
of fire, the beds, nightgowns, their hair, their hair.
They've practiced this escape before
and know to close the windows last, descend
the darkened flights of stairs in practiced wordlessness
to line up, barefoot, on the dew-wet lawn,
face the building, pretend to watch it burn.
Beginning Sculpture: The Subtractive Method
The girls sit before the assignmentidentical
blocks of saltand from tall, precarious stools,
look down into blank planes of possibility. In the end,
though, the only choice is to carve something
smaller. So they begin. Rough chunks like hail
fall before the rasps and chisels' beveled
edges. Salt permeates this air as it has
for years, the floor gritty, their hands, eyes,
even the skylights made opaque with it
disappearing not unlike the way it is
subtracted from similar blocks, in the fields,
before the tongues of the horses.
Copyright © 2005 Claudia Emerson All rights reserved
from The Greensboro Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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