New Palmyra by Emily Jaeger
Editorial intern Brian Czyzyk on today's bonus poem: “New Palmyra” is a poem of dichotomies. In carefully constructed couplets, Emily Jaeger combines poetry of place with portraiture. What emerges is a sort of inventory, never far removed from the inhabitants of Palmyra, and the grief and relief of their daily lives. Jaeger juxtaposes the limestone remnants of the old city with the satellites and tall buildings of the urban site to display a sort of combat between modernity and antiquity, and to show that the history that haunts us may be “skin-close.”
I could only find one picture of the new
city: a man walks down a bare street blue
with puddles. A grapevine hangs loose. The coat
buries his hands. In the old city, a scribe wrote:
a lost offering in a wedding gown.
Here, the limestone turns each home into a town
of many-eyed brides, craning their satellites
for any sound. Between the roof-tops a slight
tree bears figs a year early. Who’s coming?
I can’t see old Palmyra here, buildings
block the view and then you must cross a wake
of sand. The wind aches under the weight
of relief and real life, lungs cut in two
pale halves: a woman digging through
leaves for pink figs, her hundred mothers’ stone
fingers carved grasping. Later she’s alone,
freeing a tag from her new dress—paisley
swims into a worn stripe. Whom does she
call to scrape clean the last pot from dinner?
She sits on the back porch. A fire simmers
in a caged iron bowl. Mosquitos lurk
skin-close before they’re flung away in the smoke.
Emily Jaeger is the author of the chapbook The Evolution of Parasites (Sibling Rivalry Press) illustrated by Robin Levine. Her poems have appeared in Four Way Review, TriQuarterly, and The Offing, among others. After completing her MFA at UMass Boston, Emily will be the 2017/2018 Olive B. O'Connor Fellow in Poetry at Colgate University. She has also received fellowships from Literary Lambda, TENT, the New York State Summer Writers Institute, and an Academy of American Poet's Prize.