Elizabeth Macklin


A Woman Kneeling in the Big City (1992)

A Woman at Ground Zero


Time to time,
I feel a knotted sun,
solar plexus, rise
like the underside
of the city
overturned:

here are the emptied hollows
where water ran;
there, brokenhearted cuts
for unearthed cables
stripped of our copper current
and our voices;
underneath, the twisted rails
of complicated trains

that couldn't get there from here.
And I think, So it was all
topweighted?
built too fast by no one—
in short, on sand—
and so fell through?

I forget the facts,
the jackhammers and drivers.
The slow-swung crane:
the culvert lowered into the pit,
daylight moving shoals of orange
helmets over it. I forget the hands
shading the eyes that long to see

a wide, completed
avenue
with caravans
of flagged and yellow trucks
parading between tall trees, a joyride,
barreling over the worksite—

because that has not yet happened.
And because that has not happened
I see a scavenger wheel, alone alive,
over an upturned city,

and find a hard, unhopeful woman in my chest
from time to time.


©1992 Elizabeth Macklin.
Reprinted with permission of W. W. Norton & Company.

Selected Works

Translations
A translation from the Basque, published by Seren Books in 2014
A translation from the Basque, published by Graywolf Press in 2007
Poems
"These [are] poems of abrupt perception and rigorous lyricism." —New York Times Book Review.
"[Her] city is surely the world, and the posture of kneeling surely implies reverence.." —Mary Oliver.
Several essays
A wander through Europe's oldest language, via a number of its latest speakers—poets, singers, writers, musicians—and bits of other phenomena.