Hunger, said Emily Dickinson, is "a way / Of persons outside Windows– / The Entering–takes away." Miranda Field looks out simultaneously from both sides of the glass. She is at once without and within, famished and satiated–a doubleness that, if it were registered merely in the subject matters of her poems (houses, gardens, bodies), would merely be interesting. Field’s hunger is a formal principle, and her satisfaction is the continual reinvigoration of the edge–the entrance–on which a reader’s desire depends. "What kind of wilderness / takes bread and milk / from a blue willow saucer," she asks, interrogating her own wildness, her own wish for enclosure. The answer ("a wilderness that trains you") is embodied in the movement, at once equivocal and inexorable, of these poems: they are too beautifully made to idealize freedom, too much in love with vicissitude to idealize beauty. "Some urgencies are tenured to the earth, its treasures," says Miranda Field, "but some forget us. Some go farther." It is impossible to resist such urgencies because resistance is already a part of the mechanism–the tension between the figurative and the literal, the torque of syntax and line. "The rooms we want to enter / disappear": read these poems, enter them, and be hungry forever.

–James Longenbach


Hortus Conclusus


What kind of wilderness 

takes bread and milk

from a blue willow saucer?

A wilderness that trains you

to a feverish faith. 

You feed it ceaselessly,

you’ve fallen 

under a type of persuasion

a child’s book might call a spell:

how invisible the walls are

closing in.

Now say it’s nothing

but another’s body–approximate

to your own, but foreign.

The body must accompany you

everywhere you go. Now tell it something:

it doesn’t listen. It hasn’t the restraint

to live inside that cultivated space

speech makes. Feed it

from your finger,

a waterdrop with salt dissolved.

This provision is intimate, fiduciary.

Language is intent on entering

its hidden garden.

You ask this hunger for a name.

It sends you looking for one 

tumbling on the ground, across the night-

grass into bushes. 




Above the wall, the sky is plaster-white.

A voice climbs the wall. It disguises itself as creeper or vine,

it falls like milk spilt over the edge of a table.

It is the voice of the mother, climbing, falling, continuous.

It goes on trailed by other sounds, not liquid at first, but electrical.

By the voices of small dogs whose howls and little yelps

rise like cinders, but roll over the lip of the wall

and drip down, singed by cold stone. 

And the voices of children, not musical like the mother’s, not sonorous,

no more so than the animals’. But as idolatrous.

The house has a black door set with jeweled glass.

Jewels fall from the door when the door swings open and bangs shut.

The missing jewels are buried in the grass, 

the holes healed with flimsier transluscencies.

How the world appears through the dissolution of the door’s window

is disordered, warped, underwater. Or as a wooded lot

appears to one lost there. The children lean in unison against the glass to look.

They know enough to stay. They know enough to know

they need not push the door to let the mother out.

Her singing passes through divided spaces like a mist. It rises like vapour in a still, then starts to fall,

though now and then an errant note will lift itself above the wall.

To follow it would be like tying a string to a bird–

not to the acquisitive magpie swooping down to pluck a jewel from the mud.

Some urgencies are tenured to the earth, its treasures.

But some forget us. Some go farther.


Bright Ardor


The house beneath its sheath of roiled light

shimmers, a kind of bride. Almond trees

in front brocade the sky, air veils the doors 

and windows: the lot runs

out from under us, a rained-on painting,

river of space. Under the film 

of heat the facade is a kind of cover, 

coaxing and dissembling. It draws us in 

and closes, and the contents run amok: 

ladders melt, stair rails cling red hot 

and twisted to a wall. The rooms we want to enter

disappear, the way to them a turning vine,

impossible to climb, but flowering up and down,

blistering. Identities shift–families

of foxes under the beds, wolves in the attic,

a cat’s cries turning human: Feed me,

fill me with reprieve!A lifelike baby-doll 

mimics a baby left behind, and the fireman falls 

for her, he gives the life she asks for, fixed

imploring arms extended from the crib. Innocent hands

strike matches. Fevers fly out, furies

fly out from the place of gestation, of origin. 

Like the white silk-satin of Taste not of the tree,

which is a furled bud in the wood that framed the house, 

a locked thing longing for a key.


Wedding Night


I didn’t have to grow into this longing,

or work too hard to glow


among the sinking and resurrecting shadows

underneath the rocking flowerbaskets 

on the chapel porch. Every swan-neck and gloved hand bent


to fidget with and fine-tune my veil, as if beneath it 

burned a single tenuous candleflame in a flooded cellar,

or crocus broken open in dead of winter.


All night, while you kept my ruched avalanche hitched up almost over my head,

a black dog five hands high prowled outside.


Not a literal omen, his sleek substance–

superlative, masculine, shadowy sign without meaning–


no, though this was what I’d called for.


Pilferer, rifler, filcher.


Jack’s Lake


for Joanne and Jenny


The surface of the pond we leaned across

shone like a bottle pulled from a fire,

burled with oil-swirls, buckled.

But things were moving through its rooms,

under the inverse chandeliers looped

from its mirrored ceiling. We leaned, reaching 

for a paper boat becalmed past touching.

Our shadows stretched over the embezzled harbor 

where our boat docked. In our hands, willow sticks,

and on the bank behind us, early fireflies 

or lingering dragonflies clung to the tips 

of the grasses. The sticks drew arcs in the air, 

weighted like a metronome when you’ve 

set it at the upper notch, where it nearly stops. 

From afar the shape changed, turning

from animal to rusted thing to thing of wicker

or wood. Until the current drew it nearer

and we stopped wanting our lost boat,

it came unmoored from us. And we took

the stranger’s endless strangeness in,

and the twine around him, and the annexed stone.