The Sleep of Four Cities

Some Day We Shall Again Live in the Same City

Mother plays the flute and she’s mad.
Her sentences need stilts.
Her paintings never dry.
Her clocks say, Come in, I’m open.
Later, they are institutionalized.

A selection of round and fancy eyes
fills the suitcase. Fog mystifies the front door’s glass.
Outside: an unsettled debt, a fingernail moon.

The stoic weeps not.
All the sharers of her experience
lower their voices
and prepare for the next storm watch
with a candle, a seafarer’s song,
a match.

I can see the dawn
lit like a patient lamp
on the other side of night’s door.
I step out onto the porch.

Better the light than I—
searching the wet streets for the first ocean.

The Sleep of Four Cities, Jen Currin

Powered by lush imagery and lyricism, the poems in The Sleep of Four Cities use the city as a metaphor for the complexity of self. This book invites the reader to take a journey through multiple cities—cities of memory, of desire, of imagination, of discovery, of loss—with only the map of language as a guide. The cities in this book are not always easily unlocked—they are at once tangible and invisible; they exist both inside and outside the speakers of the poems. Throughout the book, these speakers seek to discover what is within their grasp and what, like water, will slip through their fingers.

“‘My mask hangs by a threat,’ writes Jen Currin, and indeed an air of menace suffuses these brilliantly erotic and dangerous poems. Currin is a startling new talent who bears watching.”

John Ashbery

“This new collection of poems by Jen Currin moves with an unassailable force of imagery and compassion. Small musical levers and their attending voices greet the reader across the page in those shadowing ecstasies that should describe poetry—that should be the first secretive poetry. She is a natural, is my conclusion. The book is stunning.”

Norman Dubie