About this poet

Erika Meitner was born and raised in Queens and Long Island, New York. She received her AB in creative writing from Dartmouth College and an MA in religious studies and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia.

Meitner is the author of four books of poems: Copia (BOA Editions, 2014); Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls (Anhinga Press, 2011); Ideal Cities (Anhinga Press, 2010), winner of the 2009 National Poetry Series; and Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore (Anhinga Press, 2003), winner of the 2002 Anhinga-Robert Dana Prize for Poetry.

She is the recipient of fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, among others. Meitner is an associate professor of English and director of the creative writing MFA program at Virginia Tech.


Bibliography

Copia (BOA Editions, 2014)
Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls (Anhinga Press, 2011)
Ideal Cities (Anhinga Press, 2010)
Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore (Anhinga Press, 2003)

Jackhammering Limestone

You ask about the leaves and I tell you it’s been so dry here
the leaves are just giving up, turning brown, falling off the trees,
 
which all look dead. This might be a metaphor for the election or
might be a metaphor for nothing—it’s hard to say. Each morning
 
I wake up to machines across the street jackhammering limestone,
shearing away more rock-face and turning it to rubble strewn across
 
red clay soil so dry it heaves and cracks. It’s been seven weeks of
drilling and blasting, drilling and blasting, and that’s not a metaphor
 
for anything either except maybe my midlife crisis, which I’m surely
having as there’s whiskey next to me and I’m up all night wondering
 
if I can be hairless again in some risqué places. Most days I refuse
to believe we’re doomed, despite growing evidence to the contrary.
 
I mean, it’s like the 1970s down there. Trust me. Most days, I listen
to NPR on my car radio and talk to one son or the other in the back seat
 
and ask them questions they sometimes answer as we drive home
past the pile of rubble and the leafless trees, which vaguely resemble
 
the girl I saw on campus wearing an entire shaggy outfit made from
flesh-colored plastic grocery bags campaigning on an environmental
 
platform for student council president. Her amazing bag-suit was rustling
in the breeze and it looked like she might take flight, just soar over campus
 
with the drones delivering burritos this week as a test stunt because
our motto here is Invent the Future, which I think about a lot—not as
 
‘your future’ in the sense of what I wanted to be when I grew up,
which I figured out by process of elimination was not a banker or a
 
computer programmer, and I never saw myself as a mother either but
here I am. More like I would invent a future where my black son will not
 
get shot by police for playing in a park, or driving, or walking from his
broken-down car. I would invent a future where there was always
 
enough chalk to leave notes for the next class: we are starting a revolution
somehow; instructions to follow. What no one told me about programming
 
computers for Merrill Lynch to keep their front-end trading systems
running past Y2K was that I was simply a dominatrix of code; the disaster
 
that would take our building down came later, and had nothing to do
with language. My cashier at Kroger has an epigraph on her name badge
 
under “Paula” that says, “I Will Make Things Right.” I hope that girl
wins her election. I hope that someday someone else will enter my
 
hairless palace and find it marvelous. The photos of broken glass; the piles
of rubble. The future is throttling towards us and it’s loud and reckless.

 

Copyright © 2017 Erika Meitner. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Erika Meitner. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

Erika Meitner

Erika Meitner

Erika Meitner is the author of four books of poems: Copia (BOA Editions, 2014); Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls (Anhinga Press, 2011); Ideal Cities (Anhinga Press, 2010), winner of the 2009 National Poetry Series; and Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore (Anhinga Press, 2003).

by this poet

poem

Hand-painted on the side
of a shack we pass
on the road to Ohio:
what this world comin to?

This is not haiku. This
is more like fog and we’re
socked in and your body

is invisible and right
across from me
simultaneously.

How much ammo you got

poem

and the moon         once it stopped         was sleeping

in the cold blue light          and the moon          while the wind snapped

vinyl siding apart          slipped around corners          whipped the neighbors'

carefully patterned bunchgrass          our snow-

poem

after Anthony Haughey’s “Settlement”

              Garden of rock.
Garden of brick and heather.
              Garden of cranes with their hands raised
as if they know the yellow answer:
              to gather together—safety in numbers.
Garden of drywall frames, holes for

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