Poem of the Week | December 15, 2014

This week we offer a new poem by Adam Giannelli. Giannelli’s poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, New England Review, Yale Review, Southwest Review, FIELD, and elsewhere. He is the translator of a selection of prose poems by Marosa di Giorgio, Diadem (BOA Editions, 2012), which was shortlisted for the 2013 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and the editor of High Lonesome (Oberlin College Press, 2006), a collection of essays on Charles Wright. He currently studies at the University of Utah, where he is a doctoral student in literature and creative writing, and a poetry editor for Quarterly West. For more information, visit adamgiannelli.com.

Author’s note:

“The String” owes in part to the tradition of the so-called metaphysical conceit. The poem sustains an elaborate comparison, marrying the concrete—the string—with the abstract. The abstract component, intentionally obscure, is intimated throughout the poem, and I hope the string takes on new layers of meaning as it appears within different contexts. It is one of my favorite words in the English language, and I’m amazed by how such a tiny, insolent word can encompass so many categories. Male or female, animal or human, abstract or concrete—it holds all.

I was living in Queens, New York, when I wrote the poem, and much of the imagery borrows from those surroundings—Rockaway Beach, Flushing Meadows. I regularly took the Q53 bus, but—due to my unreliable memory and the insistence of rhythm—I ended up going with “fifty-seven.”


The String


If a circle is what you’re after, you must
make a knot. If tautness,


It begins—
a band of cream, the sash
of steaming windows on the fifty-seven bus


in the rain, the edge of spume that fizzles
over the sand at Rockaway after each wave


rumbles then retreats—
cumulus then stratus.


In the morning you step out the front door
and squint—the ocean inside


breaking—a single plume,
aria, tendril.


You decide whether to pull the line—
drawing back a curtain or wafting a kite


in the half-breeze—to thread it through
ice skates at Flushing Meadows,


or wind it into a coil around itself
—nautilus, ribbon—or fold it over


the edge of a knife
and cut it in half.