Monica Youn

November 10, 2014 Youn Monica


            after Pierre Reverdy


nothing but blue

stains on the sheet

a portfolio

remembered smiles

a spiked head


a crown of arms

a shrug

gears start up

the mountain

bronze wire

slips around the world

somewhere doors

spring open

in numbered sequence

by name by size

a roll call

the whole crowd

showered in glass shards


coastal breezes

saturate the arid lands

the weathered buildings

jitter themselves to bits

girlish fingertips

sprout leaves

eyes blink open

beneath the mosses

the occasional foot

crushes an eyelid

the lowered blinds

bow down

the head swivels

hides in a thicket of arms

memories wake

bestir themselves

it is night

who goes away





After the clear plastic sheeting has been pulled back, folded away

After each woody rhizome has been pried loose from the soil

Each nest of roots traced to its capillary ends

Small pebbles tossed aside, worms relocated elsewhere

After the soil has been rubbed through a sieve

After the ground has been leveled with rakes and stakes and string


There is an end to labor, an end to motion

Nothing sown

Nothing germinating in the bare dirt

The light strikes each granule the same as any other


A windlessness rises

Becomes a precondition


Why is it hard to admit you couldn’t live here

No one could live here

This is not the texture of the real, lacking event, lacking structure

This is neither landscape nor memory, this is parable, a fantasy of restraint


But why does this shame you

Even now you’re trying to hide that your gaze is drifting upward

This plainness cannot hold your attention

You’re searching the sky for some marker of time, of change

In a cloudless sky the sun beats down

But if you observe that the sun warms the soil, you must also concede that the soil will grow colder

The sun stains only the body, and the body is what is not at issue here

Monica Youn is the author of Barter (Graywolf Press, 2003) and Ignatz (Four Way Books, 2010), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including the New Yorker, the ParisReview, and the New York Times Magazine, and she has been awarded fellowships from the Library of Congress and Stanford University, among other awards. A former lawyer, she now teaches poetry at Princeton University.