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Kouign Amann

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I went to make kouign amann. It sounded Irish
and/or Maghrebi. But it’s Breton, as I can swear
by the blue hydrangea like a cloudy iris

I photographed near Finistère.
And now I’m here in Croton-on-Hudson
trying to remember what was sinister

about the asymmetrical cruets,
swan and cygnet, I thought I heard
—listening under a sweet duvet—

duet. (But do swans vocalize?
Strengthening the pair-bond
while their two pasts together caramelize

the present?) Sinister like Croton’s
name, derived either from a Kitchawanc chief
or Calabria, source of stonemasons

for the dam. The former translates as
“Big Wind,” the second is known
as the birthplace of the school of Pythagoras.

Sinister not knowing if silent esoterics filter
down to our little dam, dreamt of under
sweet sweet down duvets. Bretagne’s off-kilter

menhirs call to our bric-a-brac rock
like names orphaned after the glaciers’ retreat
from Briquebec to Wequetequock.

Source: Poetry (June 2009)

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

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Kouign Amann

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  • Ange Mlinko was born in Philadelphia and earned her BA from St. John's College and MFA from Brown University. She is the author of four books of poetry: Marvelous Things Overheard (2013), which was selected by both the New Yorker and the Boston Globe as a best book of 2013; Shoulder Season (2010), a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award; Starred Wire (2005), which was a National Poetry Series winner in 2004 and a finalist for the James Laughlin Award; and Matinees (1999). Her poems are about urban life, about language and its failings, about the things we see and do not see. She is often compared to Frank O’Hara. The New Yorker praised her “unique sense of humor and mystery.”

    Mlinko has published widely as a critic, and her honors and awards include the Randall Jarrell Award in Criticism, the Frederick Bock prize from Poetry magazine for her poem “Cantata for Lynette...

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