The Mesocosm

Ange Mlinko

Two sounds in the house lately:clanking barbells and electric guitarbehind garage and bedroom doors.J.’s mesocosm failed; he flagrantlyexcused himself on the basis of gender,as the gathering of mud and spores,weeds and worms for “nurturing”is not the métier, apparently, of boys.Dear A., I myself was quite takenwith the idea that we can bringa world to life like animated toys,a sealed jar sustaining frog and fen.So much for that. It’s the fall equinox:the radio broadcast Vivaldi twice.I know the change by the slant of light—slant of light + concerto. The clocksquietly gallop. Maybe it’s the promiseof achieving equilibrium, under tightconditions, of carbon and oxygenin give-and-take. I’m in dire need of—what to call it?—magic. I worrythat Zoom is ruled by djinnthat filter out the wavelength of loveand so I wear my evil eye jewelry,as you advised, against being toomuch in view: that tiny frog on display . . .(like the specimen I saw onceon a man’s gold ring in Italy. Whocould wear that showpiece of the atelier?Only, perhaps, a witty prince.)Personal adornment is out anyway.Yet the citrus trees have kept upappearances (no shortage of lemons).I watch the progress day after dayof those novitiate spathes that eruptfrom the peace lily . . . a summonsfrom the offices of mediation. (Lawsare stipulated by plants too. See stipule.)Occasionally a rare aircraftlights up the tropopause.Where is the workshop of the soul?“His bed,” I averred. You laughed.Those late spring nights the streetwas overrun with frogs, I walked with care:a purse, a pulse . . . a pulse-in-a-pursemimicking the heart that skipped a beator made a choice in errorit couldn’t, then or now, reverse.Cold-blooded hearts everywhere I stepped!Lentil-colored, stippled, with the froideurof the ex-lover. What’s one more plague?Outside, it’s too hot. Summer’s overslept,a season out of touch with the calendar.The strip malls, dear A. , exude nutmeg.

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Ange Mlinko’s sixth book of poems, Venice, is forthcoming this April. She is the former poetry editor of the Nation, and her poetry and criticism have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, and many other journals. She has won the Randall Jarrell Award in Criticism, the Frederick Bock Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Florida.

cover of Venice

New York, New York


In Venice, Ange Mlinko dissolves the boundaries between the sublime and the ordinary, the mythic and the rational, the past and the present. She sees a Roman tablet, scratched with Greek script, in the waxen wings of a bouffant bee, and she thinks of the abyss between two airport terminals when considering Rodin’s Gates of Hell. From Naples, Italy, to its sister city on the Gulf of Mexico, or at home, in the glow of a computer screen (“I worry / that Zoom is ruled by djinn / that filter out the wavelength of love / and so I wear my evil eye jewelry, // as you advised, against being too /much in view . . .”), Mlinko probes the etymologies and eccentricities of all she encounters. As Dan Chiasson wrote in The New Yorker, “Her extraordinary wit, monitoring its own excesses, is her compass.”

On her travels, Mlinko scrapes at the patina of the past and considers the line between destruction and preservation. Sparking with wit and intelligence, the poet’s own lines break down and remake language, myth, and time. Mlinko is a poet of art and of life, and Venice is a sumptuous exploration of poetry’s capacity to capture the miracles and ironies of our times.

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