The Tapestry of Bayeux
It winds through the rooms, enormous.
Orange, umber, flora and fauna, exquisite
technique, serpents uncoiling, the meaning of hounds,
stallions stitched with sea-blue hooves.
Imagine that Meteors Fall
into the limbs of a cherry tree
and they set the pink blossoms ablaze.
The petals burn, then curl like tiny muscles.
Surely, Neurons are a Textile
relevant to touch, embroidered in linen, in the skin
of daily waking. On the examination table, she cannot describe
the pain, and the doctor cannot explain it.
Wool threads find the richest of piercings.
brushes against an inferior region of the brain,
a synapse fails the fingertips that poise too long
at the end of a match. Instead, it ignites the memory
of a childhood friend, long dead. Fragile spark,
adjacent to pain along one arm,
movement along the other.
Thread spells them out, the striped caskets
of wine and weapons; the king’s corpse,
gorgeous. What follows is the path of a nerve
to the neck in its painful angle over the needlepoint.
The tapestry survives for a thousand years, though
the flesh at its crafting, all vanished.
A thousand years, and another mind
takes in the tapestry, tangent to violence
and compassion, until nerves can describe a path
of oblique understanding.
Sewn through, a newer body cries out.
Primagravida—to a Child of Empire
First heavy, I am twice on this earth.
Dual shapes under ivory sheets; the bulge
of a new grave. My own
pregnant body is a frosted glass window
on the other side of which a light is shining,
and outside, strangers feast their eyes
on the vague nude moving within. The form is ripe
with suggestion. For you, little creature,
let’s say I crave papaya shaped
like full breasts, I crave the navels of oranges: or
an empire of oranges: or the idea of empire,
succulent as an exotic, milky fruit. No milk is pure.
Thoughts hang in clusters. Sweetness,
you will be born into appetite, we are all born
into appetite. The Gauls and Romans fought
to expand themselves, fattened their kingdoms
with delicious words they looted from the gaping mouths
of bodies in the fields: nubile, bovine, double-
breasted. I love you with all the etymology
of the tongues of the earth. You are my heavy meal.
I partake, and take hold, to claim my share
of gravity. We are a family plot. You are fantastic,
I am expectant: the moment of your turning, revolution
about to begin. Your citizen bones will call the village children
to dance a tarantella on the king’s head,
oh, my hope-made-flesh—also your own!—
my dearest, terrible joy.
Racy Diorama at the Natural History Museum
Just where do we think we come from? Australopithecus
under the gentle waterfall, back arched, nipples out,
prelingual, drenched in clear pleasure: in real running water,
and the surprise of light over her wet face, her—mind you—
synthetic face, pencil-thin streams drawing
attention to her hips as if the curves of her body
hadn’t been there before. Breathtaking
context for flesh. For words like erect
which the onlookers feel, silently; they are standing
very still. Perhaps in their hands, the warmth
of defined shape, another hand, or the brass railing
between them and 1.2 million
sensuous years. Defined by
genetic change, continental drift, landmass shifting
to kiss the cheek of Asia where mountains rise up. It’s an exhibit
of the transitive property of touch, primeval, holy—
each rabbi ordained by the hand of a rabbi,
omni cellula a cellula, and so
each feels the source. Yes, this is an argument
for the sex appeal of language inside us. Tongues
in our mouths, the grace of skin as it shapes
our lust and longing. Behold attraction:
elemental property of physics, atomic consummation,
fusion, unstable gases, the stars whose children
finally slither from the water to lick salts
from a rock; they cannot yet form
the word pleasure, although in their cravings,
they feel the same heat that eons later, Homo erectus
will unlock from this noun. A power the young feed from,
the words into which we emerge: an infant gulping air.
“Inaccessible and un-Soviet modern tendencies.”
—Pravda’s criticism of composer Dmitri Shostakovitch
to lose myself. And you.
My memory is very strict
with me. It lets me out
on my own recognizance. Even so,
sometimes I forget myself.
Why don’t the Russians understand
the verb “to be,” ligament of equation,
of standing still, standing
in line, standing beside oneself?
Commemoration means being of two minds:
one to remember, the other to lose one’s mind
and be reminded.
The nation and the fatherland
go out for lunch. They
don’t get along, always
interrupting each other. The people
in the café keep staring. Finally,
the waitress has to kick them out.
The plush of American concert halls, red
like the throat of a diva,
in sound that doubles her
size: Ah! In the audience,
most of us swallow hard
against this beauty. From the balcony,
one man yawns, and his glottis
swings forward like a church bell.
Alchemy and the political science of music:
some say the state poisoned Tchaikovsky
because it did not know him anymore.
He’d turned into something else. Threatened,
Shostakovitch sang the lyrical party line
while woodwinds pecked at it from underneath.
The Fifth Symphony subverted itself.
I must remember
the violins, and standing in my kitchen,
I cue their entrance on the radio.
Thinking they have become one another,
lovers gesture this way,
embracing after the violent fighting,
closely holding a thing they may never
make sense of.
An opera opens with the main characters
You and I. You must be exiled
for speaking too freely, something
I just can’t understand. I
will miss You.
It can’t be just that objects
compel or repel, that physics
remains the musical score, folio
of all our earthly movements. Discord
knows the common day can’t sing
a damn thing in tune.
The gravity between you and me simply
defies all laws. I am not abusing you.
Please, you mustn’t think this
Anna George Meek has published in Poetry, Kenyon Review, Yale Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Massachusetts Review, Seneca Review, Missouri Review, Water~Stone, Crazyhorse, and other journals. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and two Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowships. She has also been a finalist for the National Poetry Series (three times), the Minnesota Book Award, and the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Her first book, Acts of Contortion, won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry; her chapbook Engraved won the Snowbound Chapbook Competition. Her second full-length book, The Genome Rhapsodies, won the Richard Snyder Prize and was just released by Ashland Press. Meek lives with her husband and daughter in the Twin Cities, where she sings professionally and is a professor of English.
These poems appeared in NDQ 83.2/3 (Spring/Summer 2016).