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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

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

poem
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
2
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