To Sophia

Bernadette Mayer

Now finally I've gotten to the bottom of itI've got a few minutes left to tell the story of itI gently wake myself up every day in the same delicate kind of dream's momentDoesn't everybody wake up sometime to sayDon't bother me again just yet and how did I wind up hereI know it's not poetry to say so but howDid I wind up having to move into another room to write another bookAnd while moving everything to have to study all the old things I've kept, endless negatives and slides held up to the light with friends and trees and families on themSo many papers and even some checks, old tapes with another voice of mineExhaustion's neighbor memory keeps telling me what I used to think then I still thinkNow nostalgia for a tree makes me dally at the identifying windowI'm donating to you, younger daughter, I'm one or was oneYou need to sleep aloneAway from the exotic noisy sleep of groaning parentsWho don't even know what they do or say in their sleepYou need to drink thought more privatelyAnd not awaken every night in the same energetic needTo be comforted and nursed like a babySophia you can have my old dark room of warsI'm moving my desk to Main Street to work under the lightsWatch out for the rising moon, the looming eastern starsLet's exchange the awful peace of our nights

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photo of Bernadette Mayer

Bernadette Mayer was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1945. A most prolific poet, her first book was published when she was twenty-three years old. For many years Mayer lived and worked on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She was the Director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project from 1980 to 1984. Now, many texts later she continues to write progressive poetry from her home in East Nassau, New York. Mayer has taught at Naropa Poetics Institute, New School for Social Research, College of Staten Island, and New England College. She has received grants and awards from: PEN American Center, Foundation for Contemporary Performing Art, The NEA, The Academy for American Poets, and American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Milkweed Smithereens gathers lively, wickedly smart, intimate, and indelible Bernadette Mayer poems: the volume ranges from brand-new nature poems, pastiches, sequences, epigrams, and excerpts from her Covid Diary and Second World of Nature to early poems and sonnets found in the attic or rooted out in the UC San Diego archive.

"A poet of extraordinary inventiveness, erotic energy and challenge, and ironic intelligence."
—Michael Palmer

"Mayer writes the kind of nonsense that makes sense, and sense that is nonsense: I can’t think of a better centering device in these topsy-turvy times."
—Daniel Wenger, The New Yorker

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