Poem of the Week | September 03, 2013

This week, we’re featuring a new poem by Rebecca Morgan Frank. Frank is the author of the poetry collection Little Murders Everywhere (Salmon Poetry), a finalist for the 2013 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her poems have appeared in such places as Guernica, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Post Road, Crazyhorse, and Best New Poets 2008. She is the recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s 2010 Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for her new manuscript-in-progress. The co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online magazine Memorious, she is an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers.


Spokes of Venus

Percival Lowell was not the first man to see himself
            in Venus, to see his own shadows on her form, for
                        what is love but
a mirror? Yet to see
                            oneself so closely
              in the atmosphere, the planets as familiar
                            as the orb you see them from, this is as the mineral-
                                        wrought tears of the old stone.
Condensation pearls over porcelain, plaster leaks–
              Something isn’t right.
Lowell swore to his own testimony; you see, he’d seen it with
                            his own eyes. Everything before us
looks like life. The figures we make
                            cry because we make them.
The sky is watching us like an eye.


Author’s Note

This poem emerged from a mealtime conversation with visual artists at a residency. We joked about having “educational breakfasts,” but the truth is that those organic conversations, which wove between the research and creative work each of us were immersed in and amusing and interesting things we knew little about, were the seeds of several poems for me. When the artist told us the story of the astronomer Lowell, she remembered it as being about Mars. When I went to read the New York Times article about him, and discovered that it was Venus that he thought he was seeing, I knew I wanted to write this poem.

My newest work comes from conversations with artists, whether in-person, through their writing, or, sometimes, through their work. I’m interested in moving beyond how I see the world, in finding ways to try on other ways of seeing. But maybe, like Percival Lowell, this always brings me back to merely observing and sketching myself. What interests me most about Lowell is his conviction, how he adamantly defended his way of seeing the world. I’m not sure that what I do as a poet is so different. But I’ll keep trying to adjust the lens.