Elizabeth Willis


A horse or a turnip
Your Wealth is on the stove

By the National Institutes of
the earth at night

As for Baudelaire
a picture of half your face

is all the world, like a new democracy
by Henry Adams

To thumb the wave
To get awakened

My verse, my vernissage
sinking to the hand

as green against the snow
or a pretty paragraph

foreshortened in pink
going through the season

from apples to oranges
a task I will accomplish

with all the dirt I came from
What did I expect

to break into the sun?
So begins our legislation


To never say “I am solved
by this shadow”

I panic the way
evening petals
the wooded cheek

I am not bored

On this hidden fence
I erase everything

Caught in the mouth
of the dog next door:

the spreading heat
of urban violet

dying in the car
None of this is free


I’m browsing through
this crop circle

with Rousseau
in the woods

A confounded geography
of accidental history

Little leaf in the scrub
scrubbed away by the current

Green against the glass
and grass against the silver

A hair falls to the boat launch
like good money after bad

You look for the beginning
of the poem

between the moving x’s
of the bridge

Wherefore my masterwork
of plated opulence

The constant flowering
of our downward mobility

This is the I
I’ve learned to speak to

way, way out there
in the luggage and cabbage

A tripwire on the field
of Great Ideas:

stone from a mountain
box without glue

ingenious bobbin
into dawn

The machine day assists you
with its simple fittings

To drive so as not
to touch the world

To oversee and not to hear
its irregular sob

Choosing to be looking
so as not to be buying

This errand won’t deliver you
as you break apart the flower

To rise to this
to speak its fury

Elizabeth Willis teaches at Wesleyan University. These poems are from Address (Wesleyan University Press, 2011).

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