Poem of the Week | April 07, 2014

This week we’re serving up a fresh new poem by Eric Pankey. Pankey is the author of ten collections of poetry, most recently Trace (Milkweed Editions) and Dismantling the Angel (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press). A new collection, Crow-Work, is due from Milkweed Editions in 2015. He is the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University where he teaches in the BFA and MFA programs in Creative Writing.
Author’s note:

“The Little Village” was written in a little village in Provence. I had the good fortune to spend a month on a Brown Foundation Fellowship at the Dora Maar House in Menerbes, France, where I had the time and space to write daily and to read from its wonderful collection of art books.
Daily I would take a long walk around the hilltop listening to music. On the day of writing, I heard Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm,” as I walked: “In a little hilltop village they gambled for my clothes,” and I realized that for the first time since I heard the song in the mid-seventies I was living in “a little hilltop village” (although no one seemed interested in my clothes.)
As well, that day I had been reading Jean Follain poetry and a monograph on Rene Magritte. I have been drawn over the years to the Follain’s and Magritte’s courtship with the uncanny and hope this poem honors their mastery.


The Little Village

Dusk as silent as an owl’s wing. The old wall, built by the Romans, or built to keep the Romans out, stands scaffolded and tarped for a long restoration. All the roads wind round to the mountain’s top, where the little village, hunched, is half-obliterated by shadow as if the klieg-lit façade of an old movie set. In the town square, a table set for a séance. A stray dog turns round three times before settling down on the cobbles. The voyeur peering into a window turns away nonchalantly. He exhales smoke. An arc of embers falls as he flicks the butt away. As he passes, he touches the brim of his hat. One of the six chairs at the table is toppled, as if someone had taken fright and stood suddenly. The planchette on the Ouija board centered over NO.