“Southbound Epithalamium,” by Melissa Crow

Southbound Epithalamium

You ask me to accept this winterlessness,
and I do. I bare shy knees and drink sweet tea
in January, July, abide your fist-fat magnolia petals

rotting the lawn, your blistering brick walks
where sleepy lizards pink, and in the cracks
perhaps the widow spider, brown recluse.

I won’t miss the terror of driving back roads,
black ice and deer eyes till the house appears,
solid and with its pocket of secret heat.

Yes, I relinquish the danger of December
and its deliciousness, short precious days,
mornings spent sitting by the eastern-facing

window, eyes trained on the light. It’s alright.
But know where I go I carry this cheek-chapped
northern girl. Wool-wrapped, she trudges

her mother’s boot prints from front door
to bus stop in pre-dawn’s impossible blue.
Or now, unbundled, follows you.


From Dear Terror, Dear Splendor by Melissa Crowe. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. © 2019 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. The book is available for order here or here.


Melissa Crowe is the author of Dear Terror, Dear Splendor (University of Wisconsin Press 2019). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Baltimore Review, Crab Orchard Review, Poetry, and Tupelo Quarterly, among other journals. She’s the editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal and coordinator of the MFA program in Creative Writing at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Author photo: Mark Crowe. For more information, visit www.melissacrowe.weebly.com.


Poet’s Note

“Southbound Epithalamium” contends quite literally with the loss of winter as the speaker (me!) contemplates her move south to make a life with her new husband. That several-months-long period of punishing cold might seem easy to leave behind unless winter is central to your conception of self. I think eventually the poem turns out to be about what almost all my poems are about: how to reckon with the gains and losses in life and how to understand the balance of those things—joy, grief. Perhaps even more explicitly than usual, this one looks like a kind of totting up. What I got by loving and supporting a partner so wholeheartedly did not come to me for free; the sacrifices were real, and they were dear. I wanted to tell the truth about that so I could understand even more clearly the value of what I had chosen. By examining my own actions (here, specifically, my willingness to leave a certain kind of home behind), I could take the measure of what’s most important to me. Poetry turns out, often, to provide this kind of reconciliation, and I’m so grateful for that.

You can listen to the author reading her poem here.

Read interviews with the author here and here.


Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.