AMERICAN SPIRIT

 

BY ERIKA MEITNER (TRANSLATION) AND TRACI BRIMHALL (EMOJI POEM)

 


In the constellations are the stories of my secrets. I will keep these quiet

even from the clouds. My wildness ran unchained through school hallways &

once I danced scandalously in my red dress for the Queen’s soldiers  

but I’ve changed, said so long to that girl. Now, I go around & around  

on the carousel of prayer & ask all the time for a letter or sign: a rhythm  

in the wind chimes hanging from the eaves, some kind of ethereal gift from

a stranger, a jellyfish pulsing close to shore—something obvious & diaphanous.  

Let me tell you, honey: in this country everyone has a frozen cowardly heart.

Everyone has stolen precious things—mined diamonds from wilderness,  

excavated light from the sky, drank all the office coffee, or uprooted saplings

from the park. But the shells still sing their songs sweetly. Whiskey still burns

on the way down. I am checking myself into a hotel so I can learn to speak

in tongues again. So I can be drunk on my own desire. I will write a new bible.  

In it, I will be the prophet that withholds anger and judgment & instead enters

rough country on foot to point out that we are all bound together with filament,

will eventually catch our prey.

Listen to "Buttercup" by Hippo Campus, selected to accompany Erika and Traci's work, below:

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00:00 / 03:47
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ERIKA MEITNER (she/her) is the author of five books of poems, including Holy Moly Carry Me (BOA Editions, 2018), which was the winner of the 2018 National Jewish Book Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her sixth book, Useful Junk, is due out from BOA Editions in April 2022. She is currently a professor of English at Virginia Tech.

TRACI BRIMHALL (she/her) is the author of four collections of poetry: Come the Slumberless from the Land of Nod (Copper Canyon Press), Saudade (Copper Canyon Press), Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton), and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press). Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Slate, The Believer, The New Republic, Orion, and Best American Poetry. She’s received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and is currently Director of Creative Writing at Kansas State University.