Erika Meitner

April 8, 2014 Meitner Erika



A host of angels or a compass of cherubim

or maybe a resolution of sprites has absconded

with me or my common sense or possibly just

my best self and godknowswhatelse.


Which is to say I’m sorry.


I didn’t mean to go to iHop and spend the entire time

trying not to stare at the man in a reclining wheelchair

covered with a coverlet, sucking on oxygen

near the ladies’ room.


I didn’t mean to write you a letter that falls into

the oversharing category or scare you with Horace

or otherwise compromise what might have been

a perfectly fine correspondence (if not for my mention


of my copious tattoos or other youthful indiscretions).

I didn’t mean to get a fever on this vacation, or yell at my son

in the bathroom of the BP station because he was touching

everything including the toilet seat. He always touches


the toilet seat in every bathroom. This is not new.

I did mean to go (which is to say I purposefully went)

to the aquarium and wondered how or why everyone else

seemed perfectly content with battling the crowds to see


otters or anemones. In the tank in The Pacific Reef exhibit

there was someone in an anonymous black scuba suit

standing and waving under the water; he/she was attached

to the window with a suction cup and gesticulated constantly,


mugged for pictures, fed the fish from a squirt bottle.

I learned Beluga is a Russian word. The Belugas were mating.

or at least one named Beethoven was mating with another

whose name I don’t remember because it wasn’t a composer.


I started playing the violin when I was four—the same age

as my son. My teacher, Mrs. Eley, often cut my nails

with clippers she fished out from inside her piano.

My friend H. had the lesson after mine. He was


actually talented and some Fridays Mrs. Eley would ask him

to play whatever piece I struggled through so I could hear

how it was meant to sound, which was like the Long Island Sound

out her window at dusk—the beach being lapped by deep darkness;


the way the horsehair of a rosined bow, when pulled over strings,

smokes with small curls of dust. Years later, H. was killed

by a Metro-North train at the Riverdale station; the train’s

engineer saw him jump from the platform.


I can hear the train here though it doesn’t matter where here is.

Everywhere is home for someone. This place has goats

and a rooster. When the bird went cockadoodledoo this afternoon

my son told him he could stop now since everyone was already up.


It is still night. Everyone is not already up.

The family is asleep and I’m typing this in the dark.

I once lived in a cottage with lemons in the front yard.

I once lived in a two-flat with a huge crape myrtle in the front yard.


I lived in many places that had no front yards at all.

The place I live in now has a dwarf cherry tree

that never recovered from one winter’s frost.

I am telling you this because I have no common sense.

Erika Meitner is the author of four books of poems—most recently, Copia (BOA Editions, 2014).  She is currently the Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in Creative Writing at Queen’s University, Belfast.  She is also an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, where she teaches in the MFA program.