poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

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's second collection, You Darling Thing, will be published by Four Way Books in September.

by this poet

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.
If my love for you were a teacup,
I would praise it for its blue. I’d consider
Its delicate handle, the pictures painted there
Of ladies, of their parasols.
But my love is not a teacup,
It is not even the tar pit from which we draw
Fodder for
This massive apartment: a whole room left
Empty to air, where we used to sleep.
So many steps on the waxed wood, like off turns
On the dial of a lock whose combination one’s lost—
All decaying about me like empire,
The moldings moldering while I sit frozen
As a swan on the surface of a lake changing to ice.