LEE UPTON is the author of four volumes of poetry and three books of criticism. Her most recent book of poetry Civilian Histories (University of Georgia Press) was selected as a winner in the Georgia Contemporary Poetry Series Competition, and her No Mercy was a winner in the National Poetry Series. She has also won the Pushcart Prize. She teaches at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.


Those we destroyed in my name,
the dead stringers, the least of the lost, the
charming maniacs

we practiced covert derangements on...
I am so to speak
simply elementary.

It's not my job to pay attention,
delirious with
my long and sullied art,

no matter what they say to me.
They say: I don't dance.
It's inefficient. It's

the least optimistic surgery.
There's no one who won't
dance with me.

Long live the queen and
long live the queenery.
Agent of the deepest deep,

never to be erased
under any name
from the longing of women.


If there was a heritage
what did it want?
How greedy was it?

It wasn't an old trunk
for dumping the contents out of....
Early on it took a shape.

It was the origin of the species
a little past Part One.
A kind of drainage,

partly a bit of a vent.
We were never ones for revenge,
never for memory.

Still you wonder
if at the base of our base
a clerk isn't taking

exact minutes.
Open the pages
and we're spun.

We used to be butter
and now we're margarine.


It's worth walking the path in the middle of the estate
in through the bracken
and leaning down to see all the way into the lake.

By some trick of reflection, of drowned vines and tree limbs,
the lake floor folds
as if something inscrutable made its home there

and would atomize the water to secrete an opaque purity.
The water bends and
wavers and no origin emerges.

As if purity is a half-living giant freak that
needn't breathe
and is past seeing totally even if you twist yourself.