Bill Carty

Winner of the The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award in 2017

SILK NOR SAY

I could be quiet when asked.
How quiet? No one asked.

I fell into a thicket
of bad calls. I knotted

a delicate serge
about my neck. Wind

battled heat again.
Whatever we wrote,

it could have been better.
Or cooler. How cool?

As sleep perspires
with the city in mind,

a reluctant sleep thinking of
so many things

at once. How shy? As if
even an ant can crush

my attention span,
might we resolve this blue

before we lose it?
How blue? As the horse

turning its green eye
from the belfry

to watch a butterfly
split by lightning,

the butterfly's butterfly born
half male, half gray,

and silent as silver
secreted within

the copper coin.
How secret? Well,

there was a line
we could cross.

But it wasn't this one.
Nor this.

line

Monica Youn on Bill Carty

Ants, we are told, can lift 50 times their own body weight—something that doesn't seem strange when you look at their chitinous exoskeletons, but that feels startling when you turn your attention to their hair-thin, cantilevered legs. Something of the tensile delicacy of an ant's leg inheres in the poems of Emily Dickinson and in this poem, "Silk Nor Say"—a seemingly insubstantial attachment that is almost invisibly armored; a sudden acute angle that seems arbitrary until you realize how much weight it bears. Insectile weightlessness meets perpendicular gothic in the slant rhymes of the poem—asked / thicket/ knotted/ battled / better / reluctant / attention / butterfly / lightning / silent / secret – counterbalanced by luxuriantly drawn out monosyllables—cool / mind / blue / eye / gray / line. Sonics and sensibility merge here— you begin to experience the recursive folds of thought as a kind of rhyme, compulsive self-doubt as a kind of rhythm.

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