Smith Street, 1998

I would say we were like the ocean and a cave in the early years, before
anything at all walked the earth         your eyes were like the Grand Canyon,
like a fire door or submarine hatch, and tell me again how you want me
to leave from a room in a way that’s not ghosting, that marks presence
and brings back artifacts from ocean shipwrecks in scuba suits: the ones
in museums with metal helmets and glass visors because the men—
all the men who wore them, who were inside of them, of me, of the holy
deep, in the space between entering and staying, because the leaving the
cities it was always the keys tossed in a bowl on the table the chain
sliding the lock in the doorways of buildings with stairways to climb
the entering into the neighbors’ cooking or yelling or fucking no matter
the hallway your hands and the space between filled with my body my
body my body not exactly fading but peacemaking but gravity but
colorless but rain and even the rain saying how connected we are with
everyone how iced over how january—the space of everyone that has just
been inside of everyone mixing

*The last line of this poem is taken from Juliana Spahr’s This Connection of Everyone with Lungs.

Erika Meitner is the author of four books of poems, including Copia (BOA Editions, 2014), and Ideal Cities (Harper Perennial, 2010), which was a 2009 National Poetry Series winner. She is currently the 2014-15 US-UK Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's University Belfast. She is also an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, where she teaches in the MFA program.