Geodes of the Western Hemisphere

Three Poems by Jana Prikryl

July 6, 2016  By Jana Prikryl

The poems of Jana Prikryl may recall the ecological imagination of Jorie Graham or the flavorful antiquities that Anne Carson makes new. Yet Prikryl’s work impresses most for sounding, ultimately, like no one else in contemporary poetry. They have a casual ardor in their expansive embrace of the Anthropocene: from André Breton to Carthage, from future galaxies to the Civil War. These lyrics exist from a place where time has already played itself out simultaneous to the awareness that for the reader it is most likely just this moment that the lyric frames and microscopically dissects. Analytic, heady, wry and mysterious, the poems of Jana Prikryl keep their eye ready for “a sort of human finale,” complete with cameo by Buster Keaton. What more to ask from any poet?

—Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor

Geodes of the Western Hemisphere



The earth has feelings

some killed others in its mud and it has lots of mud


The earth builds a scrapyard, a sequence of them to tell

of this, a seam on its embalmed glabella future galaxies caress


The earth knows André Breton,

compiles ingenuous personalities in its fevered correspondence


Out of its winding sheet rolodex the earth erodes another name,

your name


Beware, the earth prepares to say one final time, construction




It hoped to say nothing further and then was disappointed, its hope

misplaced it knew deep down


Say more,

you say, the earth had hoped you would


Express as little as possible with your furniture, find the little that is

as near to nothing as can be


The monuments unpictured drift up like watermarks through the odor

of the lens


You make things happen all the time, says the earth, take my advice

look the other way



The Tempest



Parked magenta Lumina,

aluminum awning, wool shoulders

of a coat shrugged on to run across the street


for milk await

the formalwear of snow,

remote from adjectives.


The sky won’t stoop to it so much

anymore, the banks of cloud

unhitch and crumble down.


On our way to the party we stopped at a bar,

three girls in the din of a Friday night

to warm up and find ourselves late.


It’s not just the coming-into-being of the air

but the silence and smell, coldly

suggestive, of ozone meeting earth.


Such a gigantic abstraction withheld

makes a person feel

more creaturely than is proper.


You very nearly

come out and tell me

what it is you came here for.


In that peopled brown-lit place I find

I don’t want to talk to anyone much

and wait like a child while the two others talk.


This Tunis sir was Carthage,

comes the voice of a man,



who circles to his meaning despite how many

push him off it, a patient man,

I assure you Carthage.


One day it returns, half an hour

the motes drift close

with the care of airplanes flying low over the city.


Experience shows that timing one’s arrival

at a party is easier to do

in the company of others.


Is not sir my doublet as fresh as the first day I wore it?

A doublet, a doublet. In my edition the notes

concur with the scoundrels,


Tunis and Carthage were close

but not the same city.

Also you learn the reasons for your amusement,


if that’s what it is, when they mock the mention

of Dido, have not been explained.

How came that widow in?


What if he had said “widower Aeneas” too?

It’s funny to use your imagination

because it’s true.


And tears of a lackey,

the touch of a known hand,

an ordinary consolation


undoes me. I pause for them to move

from higher to lower regions of the sky

before proceeding down the sidewalk.



Ode/Our Hospitality



“No begging.”

—Buster Keaton



You who found none of your codirectors sufficiently serious, the scene

in need of reshooting,

the Civil War, plantation mood, the trouble was to lay the keel

down near enough to fact

to send those uncommon orders of feeling from your eyes to none but ours

when a gun went off at dinner,


I mean a popped cork, and you unmurdered, alive in the sense that

projectors stutter

stern-black pages to light you into motion for our no less than

physical pleasure


Your glance like an open hand, your glutes, your hurricane tending by its own

momentum to the next exposure

of an inner mechanism, whose parody sinks its point into the mark to such

a depth it spreads

to illumine the entire body and every other body and the number of you

in all the parts

seem a sort of human finale, if not the very last absolutely necessary

movie, then the first and last


We’ll sit you in a chair and grant you days of banqueting in safety

to think of new material


Jana Prikryl
Jana Prikryl
Jana Prikryl is the author of The After Party, which was one of The New York Times’ Best Poetry Books of the Year. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, The Paris Review, and The New York Review of Books, where she is a senior editor and the poetry editor.

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