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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, January 7, 2016.
About this Poem 

“‘Emma Bovary’ took its time. It started years ago as a monologue in the voice of the Cumaean Sibyl from Virgil’s Aeneid, twice as long and very boring. More recently I have been obsessed with Lydia Davis’s translation of Madame Bovary, and coming across the unfinished poem while thinking about Emma finally made the lines snap into place: The leaf-cutter ants of Costa Rica make an appearance too.”
Monica Ferrell

Emma Bovary

I would have liked then for someone to touch me
So I could know the purpose of this hardship.
Black-eyed and impassive as a canyon,
From the hive of my mind, I looked at their faces 
As I moved between rows of espaliered pears.
I only intended for someone to show
Me, once, an affection like the sun
Shows even the simplest bulb, entering what’s hidden.
Let me show them instead the picture
In a knife’s reflection, take down my hair
Where the gravedigger kneels among new potatoes.
Behind my teeth are headstones, and behind those
Skeletons of cavemen, of dinosaurs,
And under my skin: alphabets, alphabets
In black ink, a legacy of histories tiny and alive
As an ant army marching toward forever.
Understand, please—I, too, have a splendid use,
This world could not get rid of me if it wanted to.

Copyright © 2016 by Monica Ferrell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 7, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Monica Ferrell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 7, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Monica Ferrell

Monica Ferrell

Monica Ferrell is the author of the poetry collection Beasts for the Chase: Poems (Sarabande Books, 2008).

by this poet

poem
You need me like ice needs the mountain 
On which it breeds. Like print needs the page.
You move in me like the tongue in a mouth,
Like wind in the leaves of summer trees,
Gust-fists, hollow except for movement and desire
Which is movement. You taste me the way the claws
Of a pigeon taste that window-ledge on
poem
Man shaped out of mud
And made to speak and love—
Let's stick in him a little whisperer,

A bucket with two holes.
Let's give him the Great Deceiver,
A blood-stone.

A church with a vaulted ceiling
Where the White and Blue Niles meet.
A dog who cries after dark.

Everyone has a heart,
Even the people who don't.
poem

There is nothing beautiful here
However I may want it. I can’t
Spin a crystal palace of this thin air,
Weave a darkness plush as molefur with my tongue
However I want. Yet I am not alone
In these alleys of vowels, which comfort me
As the single living nun of a convent
Is comforted