Erika Meitner

To achieve luminosity we must

“Get hold of an object at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction” (Walter Benjamin)

That means our most tender parts & hollows: eyes / breasts / testicles

The places we are scarred or baffled

Even if the pictures are rough, too dark,
Grainy, imperfect, we hold onto each other

And the places that baffle or scar us

“The resistance of the material is part of the process” (Louise Bourgeoise)

To achieve luminosity we must inhabit anything: aging / demolition / abandonment

“Everyone left one night—even the dogs and the rats” (Danny Lyon)

Later, a sculptor renders neighborhood strays in wire: hollow cats, squirrels, mice
He tucks them into street corners or perches them on railings to echo their presence

Our very existence is to decompose, wear down in time, shift form

“We go about our business and that leaves a trace” (Zoe Leonard)

The background of a snapshot pulled from a shoebox

A rendering of you unaware

The palace of the body is crumbling, is always

We are damaged beyond repair, but still salvaged, hovering

We cast off: dust / holes / mistakes
It’s a new decade—there’s a winnowing

Anything joyful in the body is worth doing

To achieve luminosity we make resolutions:
To be less afraid of the impulses and objects inside us

My body: useful junk, unabandoned old rope, fair game

My body: of value, but inferior to my own imagery on screen

I can watch you watching me

We see everything unfold like we’re there

To achieve luminosity we must pass on

To the future forever what we look like at our best alone in the light

The way I look to you—tell me—don’t be afraid
I can go on—I am paying attention

To Achieve Luminosity

To insist on the necessity of beauty
(can u show me ur pussy?)

To structure our reality
(with emojis / with ellipses: eggplant, peach, silence)

To determine our relationships to systems of power
(he pulled out his cock; we put him on the supreme court)

To suss out what is arbitrary
(didn’t we didn’t we didn’t we have a good time now?)

To seek an architecture of information
(I walked down to the train tracks, stopped at CVS)

To borrow language from the sages
(Pour some sugar on me playing from a passing truck)

To guess at longevity
(look at the duration of my unspooling receipt)

To create affordable luxury
(in a brand new city where the sun always shines)

To access public opinion
(via coordinated behavior, like cat calls or applause)

To be emissaries of authority
(by purchasing manufactured adulation: likes in bulk)

To mine the worst things from this earth
(violence, oil, destruction, death, coal, debris, hubris)

To explore our mimetic impulses
(hit me like a bomb baby come on get it on)

To imagine you are being loved indefinitely
(we woke in the morning just the same)



Erika Meitner is the author of six books of poems, including Ideal Cities (Harper Perennial, 2010)—a 2009 National Poetry Series winner; Copia (BOA Editions, 2014); and Holy Moly Carry Me (BOA Editions, 2018), winner of the 2018 National Jewish Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry. Her poems have been published most recently in The New Republic, The New Yorker, OrionVirginia Quarterly ReviewThe BelieverPoetry, and elsewhere. Her newest book, Useful Junk, was published byBOA Editions in April 2022.