Rapture & Chrysler Building by Melissa Stein

By Melissa Stein



I once turned to swan

in the post-office line, the people

waning there with their parcels

and address stickers oblivious

to the enormity and genius

of my wings. Imagine a white

white enough, a tender

tender enough to suffuse you

to a child’s sleep

right on your weary feet—

But the ledgers and the pencils

and the stamps. The daily adhesive.

The bruise and bruise and bruise.

Take heart, oh beautiful people

of the post-office line. I hereby

lend you my ascension.

In my numb and glorious

profusion I enfold you

and your piglet grief.


Melissa Stein

Chrysler Building


Everything served up

on a silver charger.

Even the air conditioning,

even the sink fixtures

hold the peculiar

inevitability of flawless

design. My dreams

are the only hint

I used to have emotions

that knocked the wind out.

Back then I thought art's prerequisite

sequestration in some strange

and godforsaken place. Discordance

and harm. Now I wake up so sad

and then I see the ferry

foaming its way to the dock

or the gleaming headdress

of the Chrysler Building

or the Iditarod of clouds.

And then I make tea

in the double-walled acrylic

tumbler whose lips

are rosepetals

against my lips and

I stretch out my legs

across the taut cowhide ottoman

and simply feel grateful.

Where’s the poetry

in <em>that</em>? my adolescent

nephew once sneered,

as if my every utterance

were obliged to be

an anguished terza rima

howl. I suppose

this all makes me

the middle-aged person

I was always in terror

I’d become. That I don’t even mind

is the horrible proof.

Melissa Stein's poetry collection Rough Honey won the 2010 APR/Honickman First Book Prize, selected by Mark Doty, and was published by American Poetry Review in association with Copper Canyon Press. Her poems have appeared in The Southern Review, New England Review, Best New Poets 2009, Harvard Review, North American Review, and many other journals and anthologies. She has received fellowships from Bread Loaf, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and her work has won awards from Spoon River Poetry Review, Literal Latte, and the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation, among others. She holds an MA in creative writing from the University of California at Davis, and is a freelance editor and writer in San Francisco.