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Unterberg Poetry Center

Erika Luckert

2017 Discovery / Boston Review

Erika Luckert is a writer from Edmonton, Canada. Her manuscript, Prepared Ground, was a finalist for Tupelo Press’ Berkshire Prize. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University and was nominated for the Canadian National Magazine Award in Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, CALYX, Room Magazine, Boston Review and others. She lives in New York City, where she teaches creative and critical writing. For more information, visit
The poem and manuscript below were included in the printed program of the 2017 Discovery Winners’ Reading.

  • Preparations

    I have come to distrust the sun and so
    I take an x-ray of a rose, increase
    the contrast see the petals fold
    in less deceptive light.
    I want to see the bones and trace
    their joints to somehow understand
    the way they bend and sway.
    In my basement suite I used to hang
    a bouquet upside down
    with thread to strangle
    or suspend its blooms
    so the blood could stay flushed red
    in their heads as they dried
    in the dark.
    The radiation blast might bleach them,
    but this will be brief, micro-flicker
    of blaze through a window
    of beryllium:
    there will be stipules, thorn and stem,
    the rose’s hip, all its pertinent pieces lit
    as per their density:
    an image of pappus, sepal, seed, and finally
    I’ll be able to see if there are any bones,
    and are they broken, if there are
    any joints and have they healed,
    if there are parts in them like parts I’ve seen in me.
    Hold still, dear specimen, stop flickering.
    You’ll soon be lightless, see each limb. 
    When leaves can’t last, the window light
    disgathers them. The mess of tissue,
    crush of red packed tight around
    a tender skull will wilt or bloom
    or somehow open in this tunnelled light.
    Eventually the last bruised petal pulls away.
    Blossom of spine and thorn, the back-lit bones. 
  • Manuscript

From the Winners’ Reading: “Cigarette with God,” by Erika Luckert

Watch the 2017 Winners’ Reading.