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Don’t Tell Me

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it’s iron, the bottle
crouched on its white pedestal,
long beak spout and wide open handle
you could see starry sky through.

Everybody was doing that new stitch,
it had spread far west, oh yes,
said Mrs. ______ at Knit & Purl,
but how many hats can one person wear?

I’d like to be more useful—say
apprentice to a bung fitter, or make
chipped ice, to hit something (not live)
on the head, directly,

I’ve not yet seen the Rock Wren
though I saw a photo of one inserting
pebbles in the airflow pipe of a mine,
therein to lay its eggs.


Source: Poetry (September 2010)

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This poem originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

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Don’t Tell Me

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  • Talvikki Ansel grew up in Mystic, Connecticut. She earned a BA from Mount Holyoke College and an MFA from Indiana University at Bloomington. Influenced by Robert Hayden, Marianne Moore, and Elizabeth Bishop, Ansel writes spare, precise poems that balance on—and often question—the border between the natural and the manmade. Her poetry collections include Somewhere in Space (2015), selected by Kathy Fagan for The Journal / Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize from Ohio State University Press; Jetty and Other Poems (2003); and My Shining Archipelago (1997), which was selected by James Dickey for the Yale Younger Poets Series.

    Ansel’s honors include Shenandoah’s Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, a Pushcart Prize, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, a Lannan Foundation residency, and a fellowship from the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Her work has also been included in the anthology New Young American Poets, edited by Kevin Prufer.

    Ansel has taught at the Virginia Commonwealth University and the...

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