“in the pleatpetal purring of mouthweathered May”: Karen Volkman’s “May”

IMG_6833A couple years ago, I reviewed Hailey Leithauser’s Swoop, a collection that plays with language so exuberantly that I found myself grinning over many of the poems.

I felt that same sense of exuberance–though tilted toward the macabre, I think–when I read Karen Volkman’s “May.”

In the poem’s couplets, “the old saw wind” dressed in May’s finery (“gaud gown and ruby reckoning”) “[s]ays, dance that skeletal startle the way I might.” In couplets the wind directs a kind of dance (“you one, you two, you three your cruder schemes, / you blanch black lurk and blood the pallid bone”) that’s more about evoking a sense of atmosphere through words that punch than about describing actual movement.

For me the poem captures those brief days in May when all the trees are blooming pink and white, but already on the cusp of discarding those petals—just waiting for the right breeze.

It’s a tricky poem, though; what do you think of it?