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Winner of the 2014 Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize

Editor’s Choice: The New York Times Book Review 

"What Muench does in these poems is what, in fact, all poets purport to do—that is to say, talk to the dead, let the dead speak—then offer answers. . . . [T]hese hermetic yet direct poems. . . speak to the reader like high-speed oracles. . . . The depth of identification with mastery, with enormous grief and enormous optimism and joy, becomes her force field."—from the Introduction by Carol Muske-Dukes

"Simone’s poems have a confidence and sophistication of what I like to call intentionality. Also wit, grace, poise, and a relationship to writing beyond self-referential feeling. The language is refreshing, musical, attenuated. The literary, cultural references wake us up. This seems a writer inspired by Other. . . . There is an evocative marriage taking place here. Her poems display a highly engaged imagination."—Anne Waldman

"Lush, sprouting sensuous images line-by-line, adopting myth freely, Simone Muench’s poems are volatile explosives, circling beauty."—James Tate

"Muench has fallen for Desnos harder than most, yet despite her poetry's acknowledged debt to his early work, it does not feel derivative. Muench tends to begin a poem with a vague suggestion of setting or theme, and then piles on gorgeous phrases: "In second-story windows, / girls in fine coal dresses undress, scrim of their slips / lemon light: thin as a bone-button that unfastens / the sky." Muench's lush figures give great pleasure to both ear and eye, and her imaginative leaps can feel both mysterious and inevitable, in a way that recalls not only Desnos, but also Neruda." —The New York Times Book Review

Book no.2
Book no.1

By Your Mouth

At night I sleep with the saddest men


but today I ache, moths and blood 
decorating my bed, a conjuring

trick I shrink
my spine into. My wrists

raw wool and black
as malpractice from your bite.

Today, not even a meteor swarm 
can alarm me.

My hands bare the bad lands,
molded riot of Texas

purple spike. Debut of the mad 
muse—how like spies it is disguised.

Outdoors, the wars roar on and 
the dead are gathered

like promissory notes and buried 
in their grandmothers’ mink coats.

You salute with a broken tooth, words 
tapering off, vapor lifting out your eyes,
no longer knowing the difference between 
photographs and mirrors. Shadows border 
lips, the severe sheerness of your existence.
Call in the maintenance staff for your removal.
You’re a groove in my lineage, a greasy spoon 
where I consumed eggs overeasy. The sun’s 
just a rerun. I’d come to your funeral 
if I were in a better mood, but my head jerks 
with a thousand whipsnakes. When you died, 
I swooned like a flamenco dancer on Acapulco 
gold while honey guides and vinegar flies gathered 
near your stain, small as bird shadow, on the snow.

Days when I gaze into your glass
eye, archeological remains

of your tortured back, mustangs 
gather at your open mouth.

You conspire against my pleasure, 
your sadness is ferocious, taller

than Kilimanjaro. You live in my ribs,
a ruby boutonnière; you are plum

and pendulum; a car salesman in white 
tie and tails. You’re bizarre as innards,

buzzards as you stumble dream 
to dream you reside in margins,

in the blurry vision of virgins; 
in my eyes, you are aniline dye,

the deep south of your contagious mouth.


Viewing Rain from a Hospital Bed

after Levertov

Something sidles 
up to me in the dark, I

taste it; this disease 
I can’t speak.

I listen to rain, tangled 
branches, scar on my chest.

It shoots. You 
lick it.

How is it? Don’t go
where you don’t belong.

It’s how you hear it—
scar, emblem of chance,

unnamable odor
pearling out of it

and over you,
stifling you in bed.

But what if 
like an axolotl, its

quickness I visit,
and slip coiling into light?

Not scar, not 
that voice

of ache and tomorrow; or bone
crack for having moved too fast.

What if held beneath sea 
it turned a beautiful

blue, an impenetrable
blue? Could all that liquid

be the source of fall?
Here beneath flesh: is an I

with diamond bones, some 
split in rot, others

rain sparks, sage
blooming additions. Here it ends—

could I erase
in lampblack rain,

the moon flickering?

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