The facial recognition technologythey're using to board the planeis, of course, strictly optional.The young familyin whose apartmentI'm staying on my employer's dimehas moved here from Rome. The woman shows mehow to make stovetop espressoand serves me,that first morning, two slicesof a chocolate ring-cake, so dryit turns to powder in my mouth. There will be cakeevery morning of my stay here —the same cake getting drier by the day —served on a folded paper napkin on a plate.The second morning, she suggeststhat I may take it to my room, so I take the napkinand, every day, wrap the cake to smuggle outand deposit itin a public trashcan. Every day, as I walk,I end up eating most of it.Your name, it sounds so German, the ticket woman says.German Jewish, yes, I say.Huh. I've never heard it, shakes her head.Outside a shop, one man holds a window squeegee, double-sidedwith the squeegee and the scrubber. He's washing the windowwhile another man looks on, either learning how to do itor making sure the first one does it right.The goal is to not see the glass. I think he's doing great.I look throughto the phones for sale, tethered to the tables.I'm waiting to text Chris.It could be that they're taking turns,keeping each other company.A bus pulls up and carriesmy reflection away.The streets are empty, and I'm not surewhen it happened, when it came to seemactively dangerous to be apart. Alone, I feelalone, but violently. Like half.The streets are empty, so I wait with pleasurein the safety of a line outside a restaurant —Vietnamese street food, which suggestswholly different streets.Once inside, I'm seatedat a table for fourand, after I order, am joined by a manwho, when he orders,is British. We don't speak. He presumably remainsunaware that we could.Over the Atlantic, in the row ahead,a woman attempts to return her breakfast muffin,unopened in its plastic,to the flight attendant.No, it can't be saved.Everything will be incinerated.
“Frankfurt” from EARTH ROOM by Rachel Mannheimer.
Published by Changes Press on April 5, 2022.
Copyright © 2022 by Rachel Mannheimer.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Rachel Mannheimer was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and lives in New Haven, Connecticut, where she works as a literary scout and as a senior editor for The Yale Review. Her first book, Earth Room, was selected by Louise Glück as the inaugural winner of the Bergman Prize and published by Changes.
“How many voices can sustain an entire book length poem? I think of Claudia Rankine and Maggie Nelson. And here, Mannheimer, as she thinks aloud on the page with her supple, discerning intelligence. This is that rare work that is both profoundly alert to its historical moment and also, in the questions it entertains and the magnitude of its intent, timeless.”
— Louise Glück
“Multiple readings of Rachel Mannheimer’s thoroughly fresh debut reward and fascinate like multiple visits to Walter De Maria’s eponymous 'Earth Room' installation. This book is a charismatic travelogue for our interior and exterior landscapes; it’s a conceptual art catalog with a poet’s notes written in the margins; it’s a one-act play of engrossing verbal theater. The stupendous Earth Room makes language a place. It’s roomy, it’s personal, it’s every day.”
— Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
“Rachel Mannheimer’s Earth Room is something uncanny. Behold the odd charge in the atmosphere: one minute, your attention is carried forth by the poems’ calibrated details and riveting textures of thought; the next, you’re inexplicably bereft, left with a dense, lush grief lodged inside you. It’s a feat the poem pulls off again and again: making traces of meaning felt while leaving much unseen. Earth Room registers the body traversing and impressing upon the edges of psychic, physical, and imagined landscapes–and at each way station and geographic marking, Mannheimer’s warm, animating intelligence renews its insistent claim on life’s blurriness and opacity. Earth Room is a singular and lambent collection, made perfectly strange.”
— Jenny Xie, author of Eye Level