Poem of the Week | November 11, 2013

This week we offer the first three sections from Claudia Emerson’s sequence poem “Infusion Suite,” featured in our current fall issue, 36.3. All of Emerson’s books, Pharaoh, Pharaoh (1997), Pinion, An Elegy (2002), Late Wife (2005), Figure Studies (2008), and Secure the Shadow (2012) were published as part of Louisiana State University Press’s signature series, Southern Messenger Poets, edited by Dave Smith. Her forthcoming collection, The Opposite House, will also be part of the series. Late Wife won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She also edited the 2010 Best New Poets anthology. Emerson has been awarded individual artist’s fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts; she was a Witter Bynner fellow through the Library of Congress and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2012. A recent inductee into the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she was also awarded the 2008 Donald Justice Award from the organization. Former Poet Laureate of Virginia, she teaches in the MFA program at VCU.

Infusion Suite



She puts on the protective gown for this one,
sky-blue, crepe paper-like. She asks again
for me to verify name, date of birth,
checking what I say against the information
on the small plastic bag she shows to me
before hanging it upside down, its contents
impossibly clear, benign looking
as water coursing the clearest bore—
umbilical-like that almost invisible line.
The trees outside the tall window appear
still full with summer, crows’ flight—more
like drunken tumbling—something to see
while I agree that yes, yes, this is me.




The poplars outside this place an old stand,
their trunks rise, slender nudes that sway in a rush
of wind and sun. At the tree’s edge, someone
has hung feeders to distract us from ourselves,
and so I don’t look at her when she says
to the screen of her computer that my blood
numbers are good, better, in fact, than last


time. Hour after hour, we watch birds circle
the plastic cylinders of sunflower seed,
cling to the caged cakes of suet swinging
from tall hooked poles—not unlike ours, I like
to think, their source of flight gravity-measured—
a given, too—and we are all radiant with it.




The surgery was a flash
fire in the yard, folks


nearly delirious
with rakes and hoses, their


faces hot with it.
This place is the slow


burn they watch, if they do,
at a safer distance, as


they might a neighbor’s field
smoldering, glad it’s


not their own, their concern
now the direction of


the wind, a chance of rain.