The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award - 2021
“I know that Emily wrote most emphatic things in the pantry, so cool and quiet, while she skimmed the milk; because I sat on the footstool behind the door, in delight, as she read them to me” — Emily Dickinson's cousin Louisa
"fall into milk
like a baby goat"
the Mysteries instruct
and what is this milk
if not clouds, if not held
by an ordinary glass
if not this god-light
illuminating the refrigerator or slant
across a car window
the crack in the coal chute
wind-shook branches when you walk
around the block the door wide open
unsayable moment that stuns you
with boredom and revelation
because this is temporary
the way stars are temporary
our lives, tidal
the way laminaria sway
unhindered in storms
it is alright to shine transgressive
to be wet or dry or damp
to turn glossy and green to be many
grasses to be the underside
of tenderness it's alright
to lie down to be tired
and not yet dying to feel the salt
dry on your body and tug on your skin
coming out of waves to imagine
this mercy was meant for you
Deborah Paredez on Meredith Stricker
Meredith Stricker's poem, "Milk," invites us, as Dickinson's poems do, to fall into the wonder found deep within the interior of our everyday surroundings. And like the tide—like the propulsions of Dickinson's philosophical and spiritual investigations—the poem pulls us in only to lead us beyond our quotidian enclosures.
"Milk" moves across vast expanses through its unfurling syntax: "and what is this milk / if not clouds, if not held / by an ordinary glass / if not this god-light…" The poem's imagery evokes and ultimately dissolves the distances between the domestic and the Dionysian, the car door and the sea floor, the ordinary glass and the swaying laminaria. "Milk" is the libation poured in honor of the divine and the daily nourishment we require, an offering up of the Mysteries that dwell in the mundane.
At the poem's center, a cacophonous music awakens the soul—"the crack in the coal chute / wind-shook branches when you walk / around the block the door wide open"—and culminates with the "unsayable moment that stuns you / with boredom and revelation." This epiphanic moment leads the reader in the second half of the poem out toward the stars and the sea. Mortality and a glistening aliveness—the dying stars and the glossy sea grasses—are always present here.
The journey the poem undertakes calls to mind Dickinson's observation that "Exultation is the going / of an inland soul to sea – / Past the Houses – / Past the Headlands – / Into deep Eternity –." In "Milk," Meredith Stricker carries us past the headlands of our daily strivings, toward the "underside / of tenderness," into the swell of mercy. I cannot think of a more crucial state in which we should be called to dwell in our current moment.