Lee Upton

Winner of the Lyric Poetry Award in 2005

And though she be but little, she is fierce


"And though she be but little, she is fierce."
              —A Midsummer Night's Dream

And though her car is old and missing parts,
and though the weeds grow up through her porch,
and though she is acquainted with Revolutionary War
     re-enactors,
and though she lapses into bouts of cursing,
her cursing is the songline of canaries.

Said Cleopatra to the asp,
said Napoleon to rocky Elba:
Though she is fierce she is but little.

So the river from an enormous height might seem
the flank of a whippet,
so the bee is more likely to attack us than the whale,
so it's her smallness that gives her
the leaping prowess of a flea.

It's the infant that holds dominion in the nursery.
It's the cutter that intersects the ocean liner.
Like to the ant, the tick, the beetle.
Said the decimal point to the numerals, You all depend on me.
Though she be but little, she is fierce.
Though she be but little, she takes the lion's part.
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Susan Wheeler on Lee Upton

Tacking out from its foreparent (one of the language's best 18th century lyrics that sings the praises of Christopher Smart's cat), this poem has more than enough rumbling thunder on its own: it seems to put no foot in the wrong place (literally, as well). It breaks anaphoras when they need to be broken; manifests a stellar synecdoche; and makes sparkling comparisons, both apt and unexpected. Though it be modest, the poem be steel.

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