This week in the PEN Poetry Series, guest editor Robert Fernandez features four poems by Emily Wilson. About Wilson’s work, Fernandez writes: “Emily Wilson’s poems are dramas of equilibrium and disequilibrium, of structure and language breaking apart, recomposing, transforming, and finding new forms. In them, the world is a violent if exquisite place, to be treated carefully and with close attention. Wilson’s poems are like stratas of seeing—they contain folds within folds of movement, precise description, feeling, and awareness. They are assemblages, worlds, beings of form and intensity. They teach us how to see and to think in new and unexpected ways.”



Something is
reeding and condensing
tentatively almost
verged on
its rounds dusky
suffering the tacit
depths a structure 
of scruffs
up under the
fog it
starts to take on
mass within
partitions ribs glumes
rosing out from where
exposure has been pierced
with little shunts
the light has
to thrust down
glinting toward
a center thought
to be there



Or the tree taken
into a grid—
dense-clipped fringes where
it has been taken
to with a straightedge or rather
something one is moving in
to extract
—dark domestic volatile all
up and down it
at the wedges of
gorgeous demarcation
who can resist
whose magnitude can’t
be determined—
twig, branch, limb, trunk
what is that but
gnarls force through it


Rachel Ruysch

Is it to the power of flowering
between the red
and the far-red regions,
against the gloom,
the peony, the poppy, the rose,
the broken tulip, stung-
open cardinal, the lime-lit
primulas, each owes its astringent
each, its roiling type
spaced, spaceless
what time is it
between the bitten pleats
how quickly it goes
and the stem follows,
cyanin dream of
the chartering infrareds.
Put to itself
in shadows, detaching,
ivory, shattery, what have we here,
the thing that can’t be justified?
It is its own outrage
and must be made to suffer
that quiet master.



slumped at the curbs
trundled-off mounds of it
dumped in the sea which is
a sea of dumped slushes
guttered at long-worn wharfs
nobody sees, do you see them
in their just locations
the troughs falling away
from trusted offices, work
having fallen away from its windward
purpose, now
to never smell the smart
rot ruck up the slope, oh, for a
fog and canting wave, a real
marine piece
so my chanson goes
I try to hear it
still, in the small bones
where were its popular figures
bundled back, the weir
the withe the wife
in soaked skirts, edging along
the boards, in the brunt of the storm
holding the child to her, she
is governing what
in spiked
mist made it
show along the umber-banded
pleats transiting the hem
its first formal building up
in clefts
where the needles went
solidly through


Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).