MADELEINE AS WHITE COUNTRY
By Paul Legault
you can sleep by
the American names for loneliness:
Iowa, Nebraska, Memphis, like snow
that we had to talk about
when it refused to go away.
Give it names,
names for names’ sake:
ashes, the winter, the white earth.
To build a man up from it
is to want for him
to rid us from what he is made of
by leaving on a horse of snow
into spring, even now.
The land exists. Ruin.
Snow. He will stay.
The patterns of milk, of place
like a fluid, snowmen that know nothing
of competition, of men made
of red and not water,
of blood that keeps through summer.
You may as well make him a home by now
from snow and a wife
of sorts from snow and a mouth,
because they will make a name for themselves
from snow and the means to wait
from ice, from carrots and coal,
their wide language derived from the weather
without a single word for you,
ten for the sea,
nothing for the cold.
(Today’s poem originally appeared in The Madeleine Poems (Omnidawn 2010), and appears here today with permission from the poet.)
Paul Legault was born in Ontario and raised in Tennessee. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Virginia and a B.F.A. in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California. He is the author of two books of poetry, The Madeleine Poems (Omnidawn, 2010, winner of the 2009 Omnidawn First/Second Book Award) and The Other Poems which is forthcoming from Fence Books in 2011. He co-founded and co-edits the translation press Telephone Books.
Editor’s Note: I had the pleasure of seeing Paul Legault read last night, for the second time. He did not disappoint. I owe my initial exposure to Mr. Legault to Ms. Lezlie Mayers, editor of this site’s “Friday Poetry Series,” where Mr. Legault first came onto my radar. Since the initial exposure, it’s been nothing but good times had by all.
Of today’s poem I will say only that it is brilliant in its subtle manipulation of language, that you as the reader are being manipulated and you don’t even know it, and that if you do, you are saying “thank you” and asking for more. When I spoke with him at his reading last night, Paul told me that he would be judging me based on the poem I chose to share today, to which I say “bring it on;” I stand enthusiastically by my choice.
Want to see more by and about Paul Legault?
Paul Legault’s Official Blog
Buy The Madeleine Poems
Bomblog: The Madeleine Poems interview
Pre-Order The Other Poems
Boston Review: Selections from The Other Poems
The Other Poems trailer (youtube)