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About this poet

Melissa Range was born and raised in East Tennessee. She received a BA from the University of Tennessee–Knoxville in 1995, an MFA from Old Dominion University in 1998, and an MTS from Emory University in 2005. She is the author of Scriptorium (Beacon Press, 2016), selected for the National Poetry Series by Tracy K. Smith, and Horse and Rider (Texas Tech University Press, 2010). She has received awards and fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rona Jaffe Foundation, among others. She currently teaches at Lawrence University and lives in Wisconsin.

Crooked as a Dog's Hind Leg

Yanking my lank hair into dog-ears,
my granny frowned at my cowlick’s
revolt against the comb, my part

looking like a dog’s shank
no matter what she did, crooked
as the dogtrot path

out the mountain county I left
with no ambitions to return,
rover-minded as my no-count granddaddy, crooking

down switchbacks that crack the earth
like the hard set of the mouth
women are born with where I’m from.

Their faces have a hundred ways to say
“Don’t go off,” “Your place is here,”
“Why won’t you settle down?”—

and I ignored them all like I was one
of their ingrate sons (jobless, thankless,
drugged up, petted to death), meandering

like a scapegrace in a ballad,
as a woman with no children likes to do,
as a woman with crooked roots knows she can.

“When you coming home?” my granny
would ask when I called, meaning “to visit”
but meaning more “to stay,”

and how could I tell her
that the creeks crisscrossing
our tumbledown ridges

are ropes trying to pull my heart straight
when it’s a crooked muscle,
its blood crashing in circles?

Why should I tell her
that since I was a mop-headed infant
and leapt out of my baby bed,

I’ve been bent on skipping
the country, glad as a chained-up hound
until I slipped my rigging?

What could I say but “I’ll be home Christmas,”
what could I hear but “That’s a long time,”
what could I do but bless

the crooked teeth in my head
and dog the roads that lead all ways
but one?

Excerpted from Scriptorium: Poems by Melissa Range (Beacon Press, 2016). Reprinted with Permission from Beacon Press. 

Excerpted from Scriptorium: Poems by Melissa Range (Beacon Press, 2016). Reprinted with Permission from Beacon Press. 

Melissa Range

Melissa Range

Melissa Range is the author of Scriptorium (Beacon Press, 2016), selected for the National Poetry Series by Tracy K. Smith, and Horse and Rider (Texas Tech University Press, 2010). She lives in Wisconsin.

by this poet

poem

And not just those disciples
whom he loved, and not just
his mother; for all creation

was his mother, if he shared
his cells with worms and ferns
and whales, silt and spiderweb,

with the very walls of his crypt.
Of all creation, only he slept,
the rest awake and rapt with

poem

I get the call about my grandmother. Maybe it is nothing.
A dark spot on a screen: someone says, “Pray that it is nothing.”

On the surgeon’s gurney, swaddled in blue—
she’s lost how much blood? Like you, she weighs nothing.

Pseudo-Denys says to cast off all images, all qualities of you.

poem

Before the stepwork and the fretwork,
before the first wet spiral leaves the brush,
before the plucking of the geese’s quills,
before the breaking of a thousand leads,

before the curving limbs and wings
of hounds, cats, and cormorants
knot into letters, before the letters knot