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Cori Winrock’s poems seem endless; or perhaps a better word would be boundaryless. Even her shorter poems expand not only beyond their conclusions, but expand as they are read—each word is a way in and a way out. In this way—and it is a bit of a paradox, because what I am saying is that her poems seem to take up an unusual amount of space—Cori Winrock’s poems make the world bigger. The poems are filters, but things coming out are bigger than they were going in.
How does she accomplish this? Mostly, I think, by utilizing a mode I am going to call the mode of the objectless address. In “Landscape in which I Am Obliterated by Light,” for example, the speaker appears to be addressing someone or something called “Little Sleeve,” but Little Sleeve, having no particular named qualities of their own (other than possible sleeviness), works as a mirror, and everything the speaker says bounces off Little Sleeve and out toward the world, so that “Landscape in which I Am Obliterated by Light” becomes a poem both about the self and not about the self, both addressed to and not addressed to a specific other, and although the world ultimately receives the poem that has bounced off Little Sleeve, because there is no intended recipient in the world other than Little Sleeve, the poem can only expand into a world with no container for it—it is added to all things, but is encompassed by none.
That is what Winrock’s poems do—they add; they are not encompassed.
—Shane McCrae, contest judge
“. . . innocent sleep, / Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care.”
Nothing fits properly in this space, Little Sleeve.
Are you watching? The way I am crawling across
the walls of every room of the house like a wet
near-dead thing. Like the sad sack that I am.
Little sleeve, the dead are everywhere
in my poems & I’ve forgotten the living
body is a necessary antecedent
to landscape. Landscape of unfreezing cells,
of new ringing forests; landscape of remorseless
heat & dry light. Little sleeve, spring is coming
coming & dragging its thaw & snow-shedding
stink. Little sleeve, the yard is dismantling its panoptic
mantling of white. & I want to be sucked into
the mud’s black hole vacuum instead of mapping
our way to another doctor. I swear I once heard someone
say there are only so many images a body can take
before the skeleton is stolen in light. Is it a given
that every TV emergency ends
in joyous resuscitation? Little sleeve, I left
my teenage bones to winter
as x-rays in a folder in a drawer.
There is a run in the quietness
of every pair of my stockings.
Little sleeve, so many bodies are denied
as bodies. & your body is not even.
We are animals, are being resurrected from DNA,
& the youngest ever brain frozen for a new body
to be built for her 500 years into a future.
Little sleeve, Is this really what we call saving?
Across an ocean drones are banqueting
as bees as bombs in bridal arrangements
& we call this progress. The satellites are monitoring
our devolving. Little sleeve, How does love appear
in no gravity? Like love, like love.
Little sleeve, no one has told me what happens
when I reemerge to a thawing
earth. What happens when a daughter returns
from the underworld to the exact moment. The exact
same grove of known trees. But no mother. No child.
Little sleeve-of-her-own-accord. Little ravel:
I’ve dug up the bulb of our girlhood
body from the frozen yard as if everything stays
perennial. As if aster rather than ash. I’ve buried
our hands in my mouth. Little sleeve, always
on the cusp of these two bright emergency
rooms, Demeter’s gorgeous force
on the brink. Come & get me, I’d like to hear myself
say: to be contagious: to be uncontained.
Little sleeve, you are distilled to a certificate
we signed before we could leave the hospital
with your sister. Little little, sing
to me. Little little, sleeve me
tender. My throat is worn slender
as a seam, my heart gone to seed.
Little, it’s impossible to turn around
to tell if what is spilling from us is water or salt
or star. Little sleeve, your legs are dragging behind me.
I swear nothing will fit in this spacesuit but us.
“What you say, you say in a body; you can say nothing outside of this body.”
Whose foreheads should we kiss to check for fever,
whose memories are those that we keep
so close to our wrists. The stars are only us
before us, afforded by so much distance.
We have drawn pictures of such animals
we have never seen. We have become such sky
-slung animals in our most untender moments.
Our bodies have been exposed to all sorts of things.
The stars don’t believe in weeping us
to sleep or singing us into a new season.
In space we imagine we are holding each other
by the hand instead of holding our own hands
over our mouths. To grieve, to be grieving—
no one is going to come tell us it’s not safe
to be holding our breath. We learn to sleep
with our hands in the dark
of strangers’ mouths, keep our heads singing
in hopes of bringing our lost
helmets back. How warmblooded
the moon must still seem when seen from the earth.
The mountains wallpaper the city
in snow, in not-another-
word: O faceted animals
in whiteshift, what mars-scape
is this? Our bodies pinned
open into the last kind blues
of Nyquil. I have nothing to say
about what the moon is doing
now, or to this unendingly ghostless
house. Or to you, who have taken
to recreating our expected life
in diminuendos—tiny us
with newborns, tiny us with so little
light—for shame for shame.
To reappear in the salt
lake and to know the right
meaning—. What is a house
but a syllable that accumulates
our fleece. Adonai, the moon is cutting
its teeth on our bedroom floor.
How underwhelming its apprehensive
face, how glozing.
Adonai, we’ve been sleeping
on top of the covers like dollhouse
lovers. I’ve untucked all seven doors
from their hinges—laid them down
as benedictions. Love, let us unbreak
and unbreak every lightbulb left
in its threads, as if we might be allowed
to pass through these walls, circle
back to the before of each other.
Cori A. Winrock is the author of the book of poems This Coalition of Bones (Kore Press, 2014), which received the Freund Prize for a first collection. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Best New Poets anthology, West Branch, Crazyhorse, The Journal, Mid-American Review, and elsewhere. Winrock received her MFA from Cornell University. She is currently a PhD candidate and Vice Presidential fellow in the Creative Writing program at the University of Utah.
Shane McCrae is the author of Mule, Blood, and Forgiveness Forgiveness (forthcoming from Factory Hollow Press), and his poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, The American Poetry Review, Fence, Pleiades, LIT and elsewhere. He has received a Whiting Writer’s Award and a fellowship from the NEA, and teaches at Oberlin College and in the brief-residency MFA program at Spalding University.
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