Night Unto Night: Poems

Night Unto Night: Poems

by Martha Collins


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How can one reconcile the irreconcilable? In this masterful companion to Day Unto Day , Martha Collins finds common ground between contradictions—beauty and horror, joy and mortality, the personal and the political.

Like its predecessor, the daybook of Night Unto Night begins with time. Its six sequences, each written in one month a year, over the course of six years, bring together the natural and the all-too-human. Red-winged blackbirds and the death of a friend. The green leaves of a maple tree and drones overseas. A February spent in Italy and the persistence of anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Dissonance is a permanent state, Collins suggests, something to be occupied rather than solved. And so this collection approaches its transcendence in the space between these seeming contrasts—and in the space between stanzas, sequences, days, and months. These poems are powerfully alive, speaking to and revising each other, borrowing a word or a line before turning it on end. We are doomed to repeat mistakes, seasons, wars, words. Yet redemption beckons, too, in the persistence of empathy and love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571314895
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication date: 03/06/2018
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Martha Collins is the author of eight volumes of poetry, including Day Unto Day , White Papers , and the book-length poem Blue Front. She has also published four collections of cotranslated Vietnamese poetry, including Black Stars: Poems by Ngo Tu Lap (with the author). Her awards include fellowships from the NEA, the Bunting Institute, and the Witter Bynner Foundation, as well as an Anisfield-Wolf Award, two Ohioana Awards, the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize, and three Pushcart Prizes. Founder of the creative writing program at UMass-Boston, she served as Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College until 2007, and is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press.

Read an Excerpt


May 2011


May flower baskets filled

with Labor spilling violets blue

inviolate hyacinths Red

Square you’d leave the basket little

ship that brought them over

here you’d ring the bell and run


changed the day marked by our Hay-

market: named it Loyalty named

it Law fled from Labor red

• r pink cherry broken open

blossoms pinkish apple

buds still bound by green


In the woods: winter’s broken

things grayed bent taken: in

this open leaves freed to work

filling in the blanks (my account

is shrinking: days spent)—

to work: taking in the light


. . . will not rejoice in the death of even

this settled account this late

taken down and yet I yet . . .

my 3 AM robin in darkness

cannot drive out darkness

for his hour, sings for the light


apple’s opened whitened clouds

hide the late great sky’s blue

body spirit’s cover wind-

driven world shivers a little

cold shakes its petal-thin skin all

down to its dark roots


water-colored blue-lined fish filling

the creek circling turning silver

thrash then leaping the ladders as if

the white rush were pulling them up:

their bodies completely need so

driven as if spirit . . .


line drawn knife cut body

broken stuff taken months

ago, why now this

loss less time mind

heart hit by what

will not now ever—


Mary’s month: taken by broken

into by God this Mother’s

Day broken open

by all: is it in breaking

that spirit flows in

• ut of body—?


lilac knots untied, why this tightening—

ah, toward breaking: a broken

spirit . . . sacrifice:

thin pink coins fallen

spent flesh on the gray

walk where I am walking


friend found her death

in the shower, took it in

her hand, held

it close, little one, let

it feed on her flesh,

watched it grow


In the night while I’m dreaming

my dead awake, robin sings

in the light: little

chorus of one, high on his branch,

closing down night, notes

for the day’s labor


High above the herring hiding

their silver, circled shrieked

the gulls: they too

laboring like but not—

• ur drones our extended

hungers for the kill


Planes named for the un-

working, the drones: our Gnats

and Wasps, our Eagles, our hungry

Ravens Hawks and Condors, our deadly

Predators, Reapers, Dark Star

above us, our unmanned Shadow


This week’s litter: maples’

tiny green planes, three

drones killed another

dozen, intended or not, in that

distant part of the world

war we are playing


Body’s war: teeth hair brain

cells lost, parts

attacked, at last

particles breaking through

borders: body’s destruction

its final truce


wanted to think spirit , instead body’s

turned to breaking, not away

from love (those lilacs

again—) but slanting

from . . . when did I start (say

the word) to be old ?


Robin, late today, calls me out

• f a dreamed house where I turned

page after blank page while

baby played a concerto: it’s his

world, and the bird’s: I write

you from my bed, my almost sleep


In the rain, tulips swoon into skirts,

pistils risen, swollen, stamens

turned, anthers waiting—

In my house, chaste yellow eggs, never

to break, strain from their vase

toward the hidden sun


Lilacs rust in rain, redbuds shed

magenta confetti, make

green hearts, risen

iris wait to open lips, lilies

• f the valleys oh love

in our bed


Long before dawn, robin, cardinal

sing in my dream, contra-

puntal lines weave

a nest for my troubles, bed

for our reddened

blue world

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