April 28, 2009 The Birth

Dear Readers,

The other nice thing about being in Belle Mead, NJ, last weekend, was being closer to the employer of Paul Muldoon, MV staple and a favorite poet of your editor. As you all know, he teaches at Princeton, and has also been poetry editor of the New Yorker for about a year. My friend Mike gave me a copy of the Princeton magazine, which featured an article about one of Muldoon’s other personas, lyricist/singer/rhythm guitarist for the local garage-pop band Rackett.

I never need much of an excuse to run a Muldoon poem, but there it was. And after enjoying such a lovely weekend, and the Mets game at Citifield last night, I went looking for a “spring” poem by the man. What I found, however, was this paean, which speaks not of rebirth, but birth itself. Nonetheless this is a nature poem of sorts: look at the vocabulary following “haul into the inestimable realm.” Muldoon is copying, of course, since a catalogue of scientific names of flora and fauna is an old trick of English-language poets. He does it in his own inimitable style, however, ditching the phyla and species names for his own arcane choices–jennets? eel-spears? kickapoo quiffs? A real treatment of the poem would of course send one to the OED. Anyone game?

I’m dedicating this poem to my friends Brian and Kathleen, special guest readers of this week’s verse. Last week they welcomed their daughter, Maeve, and what could be more appropriate than an Irish-american poem welcoming Dorothy Aoife? Have a good week, y’all. ~mjl






THE BIRTH


Seven o’clock. The seventh day of the seventh month of the year.
No sooner have I got myself up in lime-green scrubs,
a sterile cap and mask,
and taken my place at the head of the table

than the windlass-woman ply their shears
and gralloch-grub
for a footling foot, then, warming to their task,
haul into the inestimable

realm of apple-blossoms and chanterelles and damsons and eel-spears
and foxes and the general hubbub
of inkies and jennets and Kickapoos with their lemniscs
or peekaboo-quiffs of Russian sable

and tallow-unctuous vernix, into the realm of the widgeon—
the ‘whew’ or ‘yellow-poll’, not the ‘zuizin’—

Dorothy Aoife Korelitz Muldoon: I watch through floods of tears
as they give her a quick rub-a-dub
and whisk
her off to the nursery, then check their staple-guns for staples

-1994

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