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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.

Kermes Red

Called crimson, called vermilion—“little worm”
in both the Persian and the Latin, red
eggs for the carmine dye, the insect’s brood
crushed stillborn from her dried body, a-swarm
in a bath of oak ash lye and alum to form
the pigment the Germans called Saint John’s Blood—
the saint who picked brittle locusts for food,
whose blood became the germ of a crimson storm.
Christ of the pierced thorax and worm-red cloak,
I read your death was once for all, but it’s not true:
your kings and bishops command a book,
a beheading, blood for blood, the perfect hue;
thus I, the worm, the Baptist, and the scarlet oak
see all things on God’s earth must die for you.

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

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

poem

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