Reading Dickinson / Summer ‘68

By Peter Balakian b. 1951 Peter Balakian
In the hermetic almost dark
under the fluorescent dizz
I found her broken nerves,
smoke coming off the dashes,
the caps like jolts to the neck,
the pried-open spaces between vowels
where the teeth bit off twine
and the tongue was raw then cool with ice.
The air of the stockroom after lunch
was the marbleized silence of the
small blank pages she stitched into privacy.
Air of paper and faint glue
bond, carbon, graph, yellow pads,
in the stockroom I could read alone—
the confetti of money dissolved on the blank wall.
After work, I slid the numbered poems
on blue mimeo into my playbook,
and felt the open field
the zig-zagging past cornerbacks,
the white lines skewed to heaven.
Excuse my mood—unbridled, chemical,
her scrawled messages smooth to the mind,
excuse my absence, again and yes, then, too—
the cold stone of the Palisades was there
after we split—
alone naked in the Hudson,
the water greasing me in the tepid, chemical mix,
before I returned
to the cement of 9W in my father’s Skylark
the night black and soundless within.

Peter Balakian, "Reading Dickinson / Summer ‘68" from Ziggurat. Copyright © 2010 by Peter Balakian.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Source: Ziggurat (The University of Chicago Press, 2010)

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Poet Peter Balakian b. 1951

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Living, Coming of Age, Time & Brevity, Love, Desire, Activities, Jobs & Working, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

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 Peter  Balakian


Peter Balakian is the author of several collections of poetry, including June-tree: New and Selected Poems 1974–2000. His recent book, Ziggurat (2010), wrestles with the aftermath and reverberations of 9/11. His poems have been widely anthologized, including in the 1985 Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, and have been translated into several languages. He has published essays on poetry, culture, and art in . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Coming of Age, Time & Brevity, Love, Desire, Activities, Jobs & Working, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Ekphrasis

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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