poem index

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

Recorded for Poem-a-Day March 12, 2019.
About this Poem 

“Two summers ago, I saw Matthew Tennyson play the title role in Oscar Wilde’s Salomé. The production was a revelation. And yes, that’s Tennyson as in the poet. The actor is his great-great-great-grandson.”
Linda Gregerson

Slip

Liquid alignment of fabric and outer
                                       thigh. Slip.
Which mimics the thing it’s meant to allow.
                                       Passage

of air on either side of the tongue whose meat
                                       as if
to thicken the likeness of substance and sound
                                       meets just

that plot of upper palate behind the teeth.
                                       And yet  
at normal speed the very aptness loses its full
                                       bouquet.

“Salomé was wearing red pumps and the palest of
                                       pale blue
satin slips.” I would in my predictable girlhood
                                       have much

preferred a word I took to be scented like Giverny:
                                       “Salomé
was wearing red pumps and a pale blue satin
                                       chemise.”

It’s taken me all this time to hear the truer
                                       difference—slip—
which only wants a little lingering in the mouth
                                       to summon how it

thinks about the contours of the body. So the
                                       speed of it—
slip—and the lingering can resume their proper tug-
                                       of-war. The boy

they’d had the wit to cast as Salomé, both nude
                                       and may-as-well-be-
nude, was every inch presentable, flawless, as
                                       though one

might live in the body and feel no shame. No
                                       wonder,
forced to endure as they did the reek of the tidal
                                       Thames, our

predecessors took this for the universal object of
                                       desire. 
The history of the English stage right there in the
                                       slippage between not-
      
quite and already over and gone. And yes I
                                       get
the part about predation the grooming in all of its
                                       sordid detail,

I was never half so fair as this but fair enough
                                       to have been
fair game. In a town with limited options.
                                       I’ve spent

more than half my life trying to rid myself
                                       of aftermath
so let me be enchanted now. Youth at a safe
                                       remove.

Copyright © 2019 by Linda Gregerson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Linda Gregerson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Linda Gregerson

Linda Gregerson

Linda Gregerson’s book Waterborne won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize, and her book The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. She currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
Sun at the zenith. Greening
            earth.
  Slight buckling of the left
 
hind leg. And all this while
            the girl
  at his ear good boy and now
 
the hip giving way and mildly as
            was ever
2
poem
Dark still. Twelve degrees below freezing. 
            Tremor along
      the elegant, injured right front

leg of the gelding on the cross-ties. Kneeling 
            girl.
      The undersong of waters as she bathes

the leg in yet more cold. [tongue is broken] 
            [god to me]
      Her hair the
2
poem

As sometimes, in the gentler months, the sun
will return
                            before the rain has altogether
                                                       stopped and through

this lightest of curtains the curve of it shines
with a thousand