Featured Poets 2014

August 20th, 2014: Annelyse Gelman

annelyse gelmanAnnelyse Gelman is a California Arts Scholar, the inaugural poet-in-residence at UCSD's Brain Observatory, and recipient of the 2013 Mary Barnard Academy of American Poets Prize and the 2013 Lavinia Winter Fellowship. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Nailed, The Destroyer, The Economy, and MARY. Her debut poetry collection, 'Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone', is forthcoming (Write Bloody, 2014). Find her at www.annelysegelman.com.


Before tragedy, Melpomene was the muse
of singing. In family albums, she’s the baby
swaddled in harpsilk, eyes wide and blue

bellflowers, suckling honeyed milk. Each night
above the birdcage of her crib, a mobile
orbited slow circles, propelled by the wingbeats

of nightingales tied to each axis, drifting
gentle breeze and gentler music over her.
No one spoke in her presence, so she never spoke

herself, only imitated the birdsong: a melody
for I love you, for I am hungry, for I want to be
alone. A new charm on her golden necklace

for every song she learned, until she could scarcely
lift her gentle head. When she outgrew the birdcage
she sang: build me a nest, for my hands, so long

nested from the world, are too tender to touch
anything but other hands. Sing please,
her parents commanded in song. She sang please.

Good girl. Feeding her sugarwater from a bottle
shaped like a flower, they gave her another charm.
But the night of the new nest the nightingales

sang strange and when she woke the universe
everyone coverabove had tilted like a lame creature and a single
bird hung lifeless, having wrapped the loyal

twine that tied it to its orbit around its loyal
neck, so that as it flew the line tautened and loyal
as always did not break. Melpomene sang I want

to be alone all morning and into night for a week.
Then two, and three by four the nightingales
dropped key. Then staggering out of her nest, scraping

her cloudbare feet on the carpet, she flung herself
to the hearth and heaved – for it was very heavy
and she very weak – her golden charm

necklace into the flames, and, filling her
bottle shaped like a flower, poured each
song molten down her tender throat.

--Annelyse Gelman