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.
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."
About Monica Ferrell
Monica Ferrell is the author of "Beasts for the Chase" (Sarabande Books, 2008). She directs the creative writing program at Purchase College and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Academy of American Poets is a nonprofit, mission-driven organization, whose aim is to make poetry available to a wider audience. Email The Academy at poem-a-day[at]poets.org.
(c) 2016 Monica Ferrell. Originally published by the Academy of American Poets, www.poets.org. Distributed by King Features Syndicate