Meghan O'Rourke is the literary editor of Slate and a poetry editor at The Paris Review, and her poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, and other venues. She is the recipient of the 2005 Union League and Civic Arts Foundation Award. Her first book of poems, Halflife, has just been published by W. W. Norton. She grew up in Brooklyn, where she still lives.

Three Poems by Meghan O'Rourke


Pawnbroker, scavenger, cheapskate,
come creeping from your pigeon-filled backrooms,
past guns and clocks and locks and cages,
past pockets emptied and coins picked from the floor;
come sweeping with the rainclouds down the river
through the brokenblack windows of factories
to avenues where movies whisk through basement projectors
and children peel up into the supplejack twilight
like licorice from sticky floors—
there a black-eyed straight-backed drag queen
preens, fusses, fixes her hair in a shop window on Prince,
a young businessman jingles his change
and does his Travis Bickle for a long-faced friend,
there on the corner I laughed at a joke Jim made.
In the bedroom the moon is a dented spoon,
cold, getting colder, so hurry sleep,
come creep into bed, letís get it over with;
lay me down and close my eyes
and tell me whip, tell me winnow
tell me sweet tell me skittish
tell me No tell me no such thing
tell me straw into gold tell me crept into fire
tell me lost all my money tell me hoarded, verboten,
but promise tomorrow I will be profligate,
stepping into the sun like a trophy.

[first published in Poetry]

Peep Show

Tokens in the slot:
ka-shot, shot, shot.
A figure in the darkness.
The tin crank
of canned do-wop.

Someone is always watching—
donít you think?
Duck, turn, and wink.
Bodies at a distance—
thatís what we are,

raises, renovations, Florida,
dinner by the sea.
Look at you.
The waves go swiftly
out of sight—

a long ellipsis
of glaciers swallowing the sun—
come quick, no time for this,
the girls in thongs
are glancing at the clock.

[first published in The Kenyon Review]


The light of the mind is red. It is a red street,
it never ends, it must be kept to
like a schedule. When it is fine, it is fine,

and the nightís hounds flinch from it.
Foxes run under dark cover of leaves;
the glacier, trapping everything unused, melts.

Everything natural to us must be learned.
The broken laugh, the branching glance,
the wood beneath the green, embarking skin.

The light of the mind is red. It is a red street,
and a cold home stands at its darkening end,
toward which foxes run through clicking leaves.

[first published in The New Yorker]