This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Monica Ferrell.


Bride of Ruin

You’ve always had a thing for cities like this,
For their deserted wells, the grass-padded flagstones
Going nowhere, and all these splayed mosaics
Where thin-limbed bathers once frolicked and fucked
Spattered by birdshit beneath florid trees.
You’re a ruined town too, or nearly,
Hair dissolving to gray, still every month your womb
Spits out another no, coughs up its mouthful of blood.
Did you love men so much you couldn’t choose
Or love them so little you didn’t care?
No one remembers and it hardly matters now
Whether it took war or blight or plague, God
Or betrayal to bring the stupid people
Of Aphrodisias down in their catastrophe.


The Bride in Winter

Snowflakes falling on the beaten copper of nightwater,
Filling up the mouths of drowned soldiers,
Snowflakes filling the sidewalk cracks,
Edging the trees with a blue light.

Snowflakes are indifferent as balloons,
Bridges that cross in space but go nowhere.
Like the legs of insects, they are finned with complicated shapes
Falling through a black that is atmosphere

In lines eternal as Genghis Khan’s caravan across Asia,
As Napoleon forever gathering his troops in a hollow of bone:
For a long time the soldiers waited, guns in their hands,
But that white did not relinquish the sky.

Yes, the newspapers are right:
Snow is general over this part of the world,
It is falling softly on the paving slates and the well-wrought sea,
Softly falling on everything past, happening, and to come.

Once I welcomed you into my house.
Your hands were lit coals
Lodged in my back;
Goodbye to all that.

Oh silver flashes of mercury, of manna,
Falling on the house of the girl who waits by the window,
Falling on the branches that will snap,
Dazzling hypnotism—seraglio of deficient stars!



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).