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When I was a teenager growing up in rural Missouri, I wanted wings so badly my shoulder blades itched, a feeling that resurfaces, albeit briefly, nearly every spring. I had the idea for this poem for quite a while before I began to actually write it, largely...

I wrote “Electricity” while employed in the main office of Unity for the Homeless in New Orleans. I worked with a woman 20 years younger than myself who had worked with ACORN for most of her adult life and had been involved in running one of their community radio stations. Our conversations kicked up memories of my own time on the airwaves on a station in Washington, D.C. We’d talk around our desks, hers or mine, the other of us standing with papers in our hand, and when she gave me a lift...

Perspective

How do you paint the color of bone, the pelvis where the flesh

has been cut away? For more than two days we’ve soaked in bleach

the ivory girdle of the deer my son killed. Every few hours I check

the bucket so I can watch the dissolution, the falling away of the life

that can’t last. Think of O’Keeffe’s inheritance. What her hands

were given by the skeleton of the world. What she was expected

to give back. Who doesn’t want to hear...

Elizabeth Bishop said she wrote poems not because she felt a special affinity with words but because she had a feeling of there being things in her head—objects in her mind—she wanted to write down. One can see how Bishop’s poems are not so much grounded in the real as rather illuminated and borne aloft by their weird conjunctions with things we might touch—maps, animals, a lost watch. This focus on objects makes her poems melancholy; the materiality of the poem is the place where it pulls...

When I was a teenager, I locked my mother in the basement. It was an accident, but that didn't do her any good after I locked that door and left the house to go to work. She had to physically break out of the basement through the bulkhead door, climb the backyard fence, and go to her own job without keys or a purse or anything else. When I got to my job, naturally there was an angry phone message waiting for me.

And how did I react when I found out what I’d done? With sympathy and...

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