Song & Error

By Averill Curdy Averill Curdy

For Audrey Richardson Curdy (1931–1986)

It was 1986, when currencies to be changed
          Into multiple-launch-surface, anti-tank missiles
Swarmed through numbered bank accounts
          Like Ovid’s seething knotted seed of frog-slime,
Which not seldome attracted by the sun falls
          In little frogs with the rain; when it also rained  
Radionuclides, strontium, caesium, & iodine,
          Over river & clay, & over the poet’s Black Sea
Exile, before the prevailing winds blew them all
          Across Europe from Chernobyl (jewel of a name
That means black stalks & tasted newly of metal),
          & I was in your room trying to build a fire.
Wet branches breaking, those were your breaths
          Ripped out of the air. What was it hiding you
So that at every hour’s dusk I startled on you
          Where you lay, nearly resigned in the talons
Of your most personal shape? Something still
          Obdurate, still wild as the horned lark
Rising from its nest at the hunter’s feet.
          I didn’t allow you to speak what I didn’t know
To ask. As far as the bolted iron door to adust
          I could have followed, to watch the way
You put on your flame like sweetness
          Wearing the skin of a lion, & there kept
My vigil mild while bones leached minerals
          & cell walls ruptured. It isn’t you
Curled like a seed of storm-pine in a furrow
          Of ash, but your same small jeweled hand
Belonging to a Roman matron that I see,
          Its livid reach forth the black igneous rock.
Too late to retrieve the truth, too late not to
          Have been like the alchemist who, lowered by rope
Into the volcano, feeling the sharp concussion
          Of heat, reported his own eyes saw olive groves
& sky, mountains, & rivers of water & fire.
          What can I make of this? Oh, what am I to make?

Source: Poetry (June 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2009
 Averill  Curdy


A lyric poet influenced by Donne, Hopkins, Merrill, and Auden, Averill Curdy notes, “In my own work, the aural quality and weight of words is very important and I think it’s partly an attempt to make them feel as material as the smears of color on a painter’s palette.” Her meditative, dense lines are smoothed by time; as Curdy explains, “I write slowly—always, it seems, at the very limit of what I know.”

Curdy began to write . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Marriage & Companionship, Health & Illness, Disappointment & Failure, Nature, Weather, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Persona

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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