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Mary Ellen Geer is a Boston-area poet and editor who worked for many years at Harvard University Press. Her poems have appeared in The Comstock Review, Slant, and The Charles River Review, and she is the author of two short poetry collections, At the Edge of the Known World and Life/Afterlife, both published by Finishing Line Press. Her poem entitled “How to Write a Sestina” was a recent winner of the New England Poetry Club’s Boyle/Farber Award.

At the Edge of the Known World

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“Seeking connection between the deep past and the imagined future, the dead and the living, waking and dreaming, Mary Ellen Geer moves beyond the edge of the known world in each of these prescient poems. The poet’s repeated images of water, human connection, and the natural world are especially resonant. As a sequence of poems, this is gorgeously crafted.”

–Susan Carlisle


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“The precision restlessness of Geer’s poems—all luminous sound and gesture—and their perceptions of lonely loveliness in the half-seen and yearned-toward, will make these poems get under your skin.”

–Daisy Fried

The World Tree

A huge ash tree rotates slowly
just outside our bedroom window,
so close the ends of the lower branches

touch the glass; sometimes we hear
faint music when they scrape
against the pane. You could easily think

the tree isn’t moving at all, so slow
is its rotation, but if you stand very still
you can feel the slight disturbance

it makes in the air. Every night
it carries away the day’s raw scraps—
unfinished things we’ve written,

untruths spoken in careless moments,
unbearable events we’ve heard about
on the news, our bottled-up anger

and grief.  Every morning
we feel lighter, able to begin again.
We take care of it as best we can,

watering the ground during droughts,
checking its leaves for blight.
We know how much depends on it.

If its leaves shrivel, if its roots wither,
if its motion stops, nothing will be the same—
one day we’ll wake up, look out our window,

and see the red-tailed hawk,
feathers caught in the branches,
no longer able to fly.

–from Life/Afterlife

Detail of “Seal Rocks” and artwork for both book covers by Judith Prager,