A Poem For Saturday


Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

In 1998, the poet and editor Deborah Garrison published her debut collection, A Working Girl Can’t Win. At the time, she and I were colleagues at The New Yorker. Now she is poetry editor at Alfred A. Knopf, where I once had the same wonderful job, as well as a senior editor at Pantheon Books.

Her book was highly praised, drawing compliments from A. Alvarez (“A triumph of wit and modesty.”), The New York Times Book Review (“An intense, intelligent and wonderfully sly book of poems.”), and John Updike, who wrote, “Many a working girl will recognize herself in the poems’ running heroine, and male readers will part with her company reluctantly.”

What struck me rereading the book last weekend were the poems about a young marriage. We’ll post three in the hope that many of you will find them as winsome and dear as we do.

“3:00 A.M. Comedy” by Deborah Garrison:

Sometimes it’s funny, this after-hour when
whatever hasn’t happened between us
hasn’t happened again, and I pretend

to be another kind of woman, who spends
the night on the couch in a rage,
on strike for affection—

How ridiculous.
I’m always in this bed,
if not having you, then forgiving you

exquisitely, consoling myself
with a lame joke: I’m a shrinking
being, tinier and tinier I grow,

there I go!
The last woman on earth
who even bothered about sex,

and now I’m nothing but a speck.
What a shame for all those lusty men;
their world without me is barren.

While you, my dear, get
larger: you’re a hulking, man-
shaped continent, a cool green

giant (I can hardly reach your leafy
parts), or a statuesque
philosopher-king, whose sleep soars

above mathematics, his loftiest argument.

(From A Working Girl Can’t Win © 1998 by Deborah Garrison. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Photo by Flickr user Sholeh)