"Constance Merritt is a poet to defeat categories, to oppose ‘the tyranny of names’ with a poetry that sets its own terms of encounter, its ‘protocols of touch’—tender and austere, formal and intimate at once. Hers is a voice with many musics, sufficiently rich, nuanced and various to express, maintain poise and wrest meaning from the powerful cross-currents in which the heart is torn. I have seldom seen intelligence equal to such a scorching degree of intensity, or mastery of form so equal to passion’s contradictory occasions. Merritt’s prosodic range is prodigious—she moves in poetic forms as naturally as a body moves in its skin, even as her lines ring with the cadenced authority of a gifted and schooled ear. Here, in her words, the iambic ground bass is in its vital questioning mode: "The heart’s insistent undersong: how live?/how live? How live?" this poetry serves no lesser necessity than to ask that."—Eleanor Wilner
Between us, how we wrestle over words
Strain to wring some blessing from the silence,
Deliverance from violence, its fear, its lure,
The tyranny of names: night day,
Sable and alabaster, flint shale,
Steel and lace. Who among us can afford
To speak the language—any language—rightly?
As if it weren’t enough to bear one heart
Eternally divided in its chambers?
We stand close enough to touch. We do
Not touch. Between us burns a sword of fire,
A rusted turnstile glinting in the sun.