Karen Volkman was born in Miami in 1967 and was educated at New College, Syracuse University, and the University of Houston. Her first book of poems, Crash's Law, was a 1995 National Poetry Series selection. Her poems have appeared in a number of literary journals, including Poetry, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, and Partisan Review. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1993, and has been a resident at the MacDowell Colony and at Yaddo.
The Gold Book
It told the story of a runaway rose that fled trellises, hedges, and the safety of the master's shack for a life of abandon in a town down the mountain, till the repressed one-armed giantess packed her shears and went to hunt. You recall the rest only in shreds--the long travails of the giantess, dark windy nights, a loud tavern where soldiers bounced the blithe rose on their knees and called it Betty. The inevitably violent end. But what happened to that clarity of detail you once knew? The thin book sported toothmarks and a child's hieroglyphics, pages frayed and smudged at the edge from too much turning. You think the vanished facts of the story must take their place in the continuing erasures of your life: forgotten knowledge and grammars, lost love, sensations and responses, all heaped democratic in some dank chaotic attic, with the occasional tantalizing reminders to bait you, the way you remember, years later, forgotten dreams at stoplights. Or how as a child, carried drowsing from the car by your father, you felt the prickly, solemn pressure of a father's chest, and for the first time felt yourself feeling, as if from a distance, and knew you were somehow more than what was held. Now you wonder that all you've forgotten is already greater than what you contain, a life conducted under skies blunt and inexpressive as a giant's wrist. Songs rise from the tavern to the valley where vengeance waits, a fate shown by the simple absence of a rowdy rose, who at this moment carves initials in a table, laughing, careless, as you struggle to picture the specific, lurid end. Did the giantess use the shears? Which arm was missing?
Copyright © 1996 Karen VolkmanFrom Crash's Law
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Reproduced with permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Author bio Copyright © 1996
by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.