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Poet’s Sampler: Katy Lederer

I remember the first time I read some Katy Lederer poems. They were immediately intriguing█lyrical, Romantic, oracular, meditative, cool, ironic, and deeply honest all at once. I liked reading them. They asked interesting questions, like ¤Is this longing?Ë and ¤Is the flanged brain more original?Ë The poems cast a wide net over what one could think of as a kind of tonal range of the Romantic lyric█melancholic, passionate, erotic, devoted. In a Katy Lederer poem, one will often hear these romantic tones cast in a cold, cold music, a gesture that sets everything in a sort of relief. And yet the poems escape mere irony. The speculative quality the poems have is one of utmost seriousness.

Both intelligence and beauty are present. The subject matter is usually love; one of the central concerns is recasting the language of love. And there is humor█a great generosity of humor at play along the edges of the poem, never fully taking it over, but balanced precariously among the many qualities the poems manage and allow. These poems are a delight to read. It is my pleasure to introduce them to these pages.

Morning Song

You color all. Is this longing?

Or private. Is it private to speak

in the morning, the birdsong
like knives? We sit on this bench

while this wind swirls and billows.
This setting is love, yet we sit on

this bench, yet we listen to birdsong.
This color, your brain, which is bluer

than water. I touch it, your brain,
which is cooler than water. I wonder,

your brain, when it falters will it be
so cold? We buffet one another

with our bodies, with our slackened
hearts. I put myself in it, your body,

which aches. I put myself in it, your
brain, which is cooler than water.

Morning Song

In that other place,
in youth

a calm water

The culprits were

Intent on getting through
the waves,

I came upon a harbinger,
a black

rotted goat, floating
in water.

In this allegory, we are here,
and here

I saw in morning light a sex
glow red.

The gulls were pressed

the waves, across the blue

Stretched taut like this drum,
gusted out

like this sail, focused
out like

this eye of a lizard. On the

the white, liminal edge of
the day,

edge of the sea-squall,
Is the flanged brain more

I wonder when I find a line, do I
pick it up?

There are jumps in the mind,
little ladders

we use to escape these small

But what if the fires are too big,
and like children,

we hide from ourselves? What if
we put down

our thoughts in perfect ladderings,
but nothing

climbs them but for dull ideas?

Morning Song

It is simply a matter of syntax.
¤IË ¤loveË ¤you.Ë It is simply a matter

of order. The simplest words work
the best for the complex emotions:

¤Love.Ë ¤Gone.Ë ¤Loss.Ë It is morning
and we lie here on this clean, white, pleated

double bed. We are waiting for the sunrise
to unmask us of our sleep. It is lyrical

to dream like this. We ones who climb
like primates up through sleep at night

to dream of light. I dream of you. Black suitor,
gone, like sleep. Like vapid, nothing dreams.

At night these objects take on cast of shadow,
yet we sleep. At night we feel this nothing-new,

this tongue-loll, this exigent sinew, and
I think we must deceive ourselves.

The Epithet

Their thoughts are entirely immersed in resolution.
He resolves to consecrate it with a tree.
He opens his eyes and he finds a place fitting to planting.
It is early in the morning. When he comes he is ethical.
He will remember it. He will give it the epithet epic and leave it.

Where is he?
In the country there are two of them.
Standing immersed in the shadow of love.
Of his motives, he says they are pure.
Of the heavy silence, she thinks it is part of the trueness of their love.
In the winter his motives are altered by a storm.
The two of them purchase a knife.
The blade of it is long and thin.

He commands her to speak in direct discourse.
He indicates that he wants her to express her thoughts concisely and with precision.
He finds this romantic.

They are in the country and her bodice has been cut with the knife.
Part of it hangs off her shoulder. In the distance she hears the sound of a gunshot.
Their speech no longer serves them adequately.

He walks toward her, feels her breast.
He places his lips on hers. Pulls her down. Puts his hand far up her skirt and she sighs for him.
Their skin is taut, bumpy.

He is no longer in a predicament.
She tilts her head back and moans. She lilts her voice slightly and asks him if he loves her.
He does love her. He feels a very true love for her.

He is then quite unable to continue. He is breathing too heavily and doesn╠t want to be speaking anymore.
She is also breathing heavily.
They come. They are happy.


I think of your face and of its deepest bewilderment.
It makes me sad as if the morning
were a tower or pair
of them█haunted and pure,
degenerate, elevated, strange of view
in solitude.

Katy Lederer edits the magazine Explosive and a series of limited-edition chapbooks under the imprint Spectacular Books. Her first book for poems, Winter Sex, was recently published by Verse Press. Gillian Conoley’s most recent book of poetry is Lovers in the Used World. She is founder and editor of the magazine Volt.

¤The Epithet EpicË and ¤Poem (╬I think of your face . . .╠Ë are reprinted from Winter Sex, by permission of the author and Verse Press. Photograph by Annie Duke.

Originally published in the October/November 2002 issue of Boston Review

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