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
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
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
How is it? Don’t go
where you don’t belong.
It’s how you hear it—
scar, emblem of chance,
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
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?