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2007 National Book Award Finalist,
Poetry

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Photo © Nina Subin
Linda Gregerson
Magnetic North
Houghton Mifflin Company

About the Book

Magnetic North is a bold collection that explores the intersections of history, science, and art.

Linda Gregerson is the author of Waterborne, The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep, and Fire in the Conservatory. A recent Guggenheim Fellow, she teaches Renaissance literature and creative writing at the University of Michigan. Among her many awards and honors are an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, two Pushcart Prizes, and a Kingsley Tufts Award. She lives in Michigan.

Suggested Links

Author's website
www-personal.umich.edu

Wikipedia entry
http://en.wikipedia.org

Excerpt from MAGNETIC NORTH: Poems by Linda Gregerson

Copyright (c) 2007 by Linda Gregerson. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Bicameral

1
Choose any angle you like, she said,
the world is split in two. On one side, health

and dumb good luck (or money, which can pass
for both), and elsewhere . . . well,

they're eight days from the nearest town,
the parents are frightened, they think it's their fault,

the child isn't able to suck. A thing
so easily mended, provided

you have the means. I've always thought it was
odd, this part (my nursing school

embryology), this cleft in the world
that has to happen and has to heal. At first

the first division, then the flood of them, then
the migratory plates that make a palate when

they meet (and meeting, divide
the chambers, food

from air). The suture through which (the upper
lip) we face the world. It falls

a little short sometimes, as courage does.
Bolivia once, in May (I'd volunteer

on my vacations), and the boy was nine.
I know the world has harsher

things, there wasn?t a war, there wasn't
malice, I know, but this one

broke me down. They brought him in
with a bag on his head. It was

burlap, I think, or sisal. Jute.
They hadn't so much as cut eyeholes.

2
(Magdalena Abakanowicz)

Because the outer layer (mostly copper
with a bit of zinc) is good for speed

but does too little damage (what
is cleaner in the muzzle you've begun

to understand is also cleaner in
the flesh), the British at Dum Dum (Calcutta) devised

an 'open nose,' through which
the leaden core, on impact, greatly

expands (the lead being softer). Hence
the name. And common enough in Warsaw

decades later (it was 1943), despite
some efforts in The Hague. I don't

remember all of it, he wasn't even German,
but my mother's arm?

that capable arm was severed at
the shoulder, made (a single

shot) a strange thing altogether.
Meat. I haven't been able since

to think the other way is normal, all
these arms and legs.

This living-in-the-body-but-not-of-it.

3
Sisal, lambswool, horsehair, hemp.
The weaver and her coat-of-manyharrowings.

If fiber found in situ, in
agave, say, the living cells that drink

and turn the sun to exoskeleton,
is taken from the body that

in part it constitutes (the
succulent or mammal and its ex-

quisite osmotics), is
then carded, cut, dissevered

in one fashion or another from
the family of origin, and

gathered on a loom,
the body it becomes will ever

bind it to the human and a trail
of woe. Or so

the garment argues. These
were hung as in an abattoir.

Immense (12 feet and more from upper
cables to the lowest hem). And vascular,

slit, with labial
protrusions, skeins of fabric like

intestines on the gallery floor.
And beautiful, you understand.

As though a tribe of intimates (the
coronary plexus, said the weaver) had

been summoned (even such
a thing the surgeon sometimes has

to stitch) to tell us, not unkindly, See,
the world you have to live in is

the world that you have made.


 

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