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Molly Peacock reads from A Friend Sails in on a Poem

It was a treat making it over to Poets House to hear Molly Peacock read from A Friend Sails in on a Poem, a collection of essays and poems about her friendship with fellow poet Phillis Levin. For anyone who likes essays with poems in them, A Friend Sails in on a Poem is an enjoyable exploration, not only of friendship, but of creation. Any fledgling poet wondering how to write a poem would do well to read this book.

The video ends with Molly Peacock reading elegies written for her husband, Michael Groden, the James Joyce scholar, who died in 2021. These elegies are going to be published in November in a book entitled The Widow’s Crayon Box. The four elegies that Molly Peacock reads—”Touched,” “Where Does It Live,” “The Fawn,” and “Honey Crisp,”—make art out of grief with poignant discoveries and even humor. Enjoy.



I’m going to include two poems by Molly Peacock and Phillis Levin from Chapters 2 and 3 of A Friend Sails in on a Poem, “The Flaw” by Molly Peacock and “Tabula Rasa” by Phillis Levin

The Flaw

The best thing about a hand-made pattern
is the flaw.
Sooner or later in a hand-loomed rug,
among the square and flattened triangles,
a little red nub might soars above a blue field,
or a purple cross might sneak in between
the neat ochre teeth of the border.
The flaw we live by, the wrong color floss,
now wreathes among the uniform strands
and, because it does not match,
makes a red bird fly,
turning blue filed into sky.
It is almost, after long silence, a word
spoken aloud, a hand saying through a few,
I’m alive, discovered by your eye.


Tabula Rasa

To see not herself in the mirror but the mirror itself,
Startled by starlings, darlings of the eye, apples
At home in their lunar glow, piano scales
Welling below, with nobody near except

This child determined to gaze at a surface unyielding
Yet ever-fluctuating, giving in to every whim of light,
Giving in not at all to her wish, her will to be
Unseen. And why did she want this? Though I

Am she I cannot tell. Can only say
Her desirer was born starkly, bare-boned and mute,
Tiptoeing, flagrant—to face a giant nothingness
Full of family secrets, icy, molten,

Taciturn, unknown. Look at her trying to steal
A look without getting caught in the glass,
Betrayed again by a sliver of flesh, a quiver of
Self-sight. Here is the bed of the mother and father,

Island of sheets and pillows, Persian blue velvet,
Apricot silk, here the bureau of many drawers
(In one, under a packet of letters Trojans
Asleep in their wrappers), a comb and a brush

Waiting to touch. The prince and the princess, perfumes
Growing old in their vials, baroque filigree stems…
To see not myself in the mirror but the mirror
Itself, a white wolf with its pink tongue panting.



A Friend Sails in on a Poem is published by Palimpsest Press. You can check it out here:



To find out more about Molly Peacock, you can check her out here:




“Tabula Rasa” by Phillis Levin was published in an early collection of poems, Mr. Memory and Other Poems, which you can check out here:


To find out more about Phillis Levin, you can check her out here:



Phillis Levin. Photo by Sigrid Estrada



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  1. By Molly Peacock Reading 'A Friend Sails in on a Poem'- Video - Palimpsest Press May 15, 2024 at 10:38 am

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