Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage

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poems by

Leslie McGrath

Poetry book, 90 pages, $14 cover price

($12 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-202-6

Released: 2009

Winner of the 2009 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award.



LMcGrath_PxLeslie McGrath’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Alimentum, Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, Connecticut Review, DIAGRAM, Poetry Ireland, Nimrod, and elsewhere. Her literary interviews have appeared in The Writers Chronicle and on public radio. Winner of the 2004 Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, her chapbook, Toward Anguish, won the 2007 Philbrick Poetry Award. McGrath has edited (with Ravi Shankar) Reetika Vazirani’s posthumous poetry collection, Radha Says, forthcoming in 2010. She is both managing editor and nonfiction editor ofDrunken Boat online journal of the arts.

The poems in Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage have a fine sensuous density, honoring gravity but always tuned to the possibilities of gracious transformation. Wise, playful, sexy, sad–McGrath’s lines are never not plumb with the real, never not earning their light.

~Sven Birkerts


Leslie McGrath’s Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage is a book in ebullient engagement with the whole range of human experience-the sensuous, the erotic, the full faculties of both mind and heart are each given precise voice in this splendid, vivifying, and richly illuminating collection.

~Jane Hirshfield

The Soda Bread

I left a soda bread for you
wrapped in a blue tea towel,

on the cutting board a crock of sweet butter
and your favorite knife, its serrations

worn to gentle scallops. I want you
to come home and hold it to your cheek

the way you laid your head
on my ripening belly years ago

to feel our child’s flutter kick.
Place your palm in the moist circle

the bread leaves on the board,
remembering the humid summer night

you lifted the coils of hair from my neck,
tipping my face moonward.

Cut a piece thicker than I’d cut for you
and drag it through the butter.

Taste the yeast, the currants, the buttermilk.
Taste the salt from my hands.




At four, shivering
with fever, I bit through
the thermometer
slipped under my tongue.

My mother’s anguish
washed over me
as I was rolled
onto my side,
a wet cloth
round her finger, she dug
through my mouth.


First memory of taste:
not the milky nipple, not
the spoonful of fruit,
but the icicle cool
of splintered glass
and the poison capillary
that runs through
every act of care.

The Obstetrician’s Wife

I often wonder on Sunday mornings

if the vacuum’s whine grates on you, my late sleeper,
my better half, physician, healer
who works the hose of a similar machine
in your green-walled office where the stiff paper’s
pulled over the exam chair after each luckless one
leaves a cleft heart of sweat for her ten minutes there.

I wonder if, at the end of the day, once
your assistant places the remainders in the canister
marked medical waste, you ever look inside and see
among the clots and sponges a blunted valentine
that could almost be a fist. Darling, if your chest
clenches at the memory of the day we crossed
through the February fields of two states
for my illegal scrape, remember this:
we did what we felt was right; we’ve borne its cost
with childlessness, and every year
we measure our loss.



Because it is a wild thing and will not come to us
Bill pulls the dinghy from its slip in the barn
and carries it to the vernal pond
–stepping over a rune of feathers at its edge–
launching himself
with a pair of oars and a slice of wheat bread
calling to it, the awkward yellow gosling
orphaned by a neighbor’s truck and the press of time.

Ninety thousand dead in China’s awful shudders,
a hundred thousand lost in Burma
as we call across stagnant water
in the rising dusk of a Connecticut farm
to a closer suffering which will not answer
because it is a wild thing and should not come to us.

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