Rachel Mennies

Rachel Mennies is the author of The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards, winner of the 2013 Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry and finalist for a National Jewish Book Award, and the chapbook No Silence in the Fields. Her poetry has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Drunken Boat, The Journal, Crazyhorse, and elsewhere. Mennies now serves (2015—) as the series editor for the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry at Texas Tech University Press. She teaches writing at Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of AGNI’s editorial team.




American at the Mouth

We hiked to the summit
of Nea Kameni,
waved our hands
over the hot sulfur.

I stood at the lip
of something profound:
Dante at the edge
of the selva oscura,

soon to meet
the sinners.
I wanted the black rock
to give me a sign—

a tremor or flare
to bring home
to America,
some churning

proof of life.
In college, I read
the Commedia, longed
only for his hell.

Francesca forever moving
in Minos’s orbit,
still hungry
for the man

she fucked
then fucked again.
I knew nothing then
of real suffering:

how quickly
it boils over,
how fast and sure
it eats.



To Wake Up Next to You Is Ordinary

In the guest bedroom in Maine
where the hosts’ baby cried
one thin wall away, wailing

to greet the dawn,
I turned my face
to your face and whispered

someday we’ll rush in
and pick up our own baby
so gently,

                 like tuning an old violin’s bridge
                                 in winter—like mending silk
                                                 with the smallest needle—

                like Atlas with the earth in his arms—
                                look, the sea he holds for us now breaks
                                                 just outside our window—

but you never woke.
You sleep so deeply
through each life

I’ve imagined for us. That night,
we stripped our body-warmed sheets,
drove down the coast for Boston

and boarded our flight home—
each strapped to our own privacy,
passengers in separate marriages—

while the baby in the row behind us
screamed in panic
as we approached the tarmac.

I don’t know how to soothe the child
who can’t yet understand
the difference between an arrival

and a crash, between the bed we leave
and the bed we make ourselves
each day.

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