Pick-a-Poem: Ansel Elkins

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Welcome, blog readers, to another installment of our weekly featured: Pick-a-Poem! Every Wednesday we feature a new poem from someone you may not have heard of before. Hopefully this adds some fun and interesting poetry to your day, and maybe you’ll discover your new favorite poet. These poems come from Poetry Daily, which is a great website that features a new poem every single day. Check them out if you want to discover even more new poetry. This week’s featured poem is The Girl with Antlers by Ansel Elkins.

According to the bio on her website, Ansel Elkins first collection of poetry, Blue Yodel, is going to be published in April of this year. This collection won the 2014 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. Her work has also appeared in publications such as AGNI, The Believer, Guernica, the North American Review, and the Southern Review. She has been the recipient of  the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship, and an American Antiquarian Society Fellowship.

The Girl with Antlers by Ansel Elkins

I tore myself out of my own mother’s womb.
There was no other way to arrive in this world.
A terrified midwife named me Monster
and left me in the pine woods with only the moon.
My mother’s blood dripped from my treed head.

In a dream my mother came to me and said
if I was to survive
I must find joy within my own wild self.

When I awoke I was alone in solitude’s blue woods.

*  *  *

A woman found me and took me to her mountain home
high at the end of an abandoned logging road.
We spent long winter evenings by the fire;
I sat at the hearth as she read aloud myths of the Greeks
while the woodstove roared behind me.
She sometimes paused to watch the wall of shadows
cast by my antlers. The shadows danced
across the entire room like an oak’s wind-shaken branches.

*  *  *

The woman was worried when I would not wear dresses.
I walked naked through the woods.
She hung the wash from my head
on hot summer days when I sat in the sun to read.
The woman grew worried when I would not shed
my crown with the seasons as the whitetails did.
“But I am not a whitetail,” I said.

*  *  *

When I became a woman
in the summer of my fifteenth year,
I found myself
suddenly changed in the mirror.
My many-pronged crown had grown
into a wildness all its own;
highly stylized, the bright
anarchic antlers were majestic to my eye.

The woman saw me and smiled. “What you are I cannot say,
but nature has created you.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

When night came it brought a full moon.
I walked through the woods to the lake
and knelt in the cool grass on its bank.
I saw my reflection on the water,
I touched my face.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poem! For more of these posts, click here.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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