The Shimmering Verge is about the line between ordinary existence and the heightened state of reality in poetry. The play is Molly Peacock's experiment in using the resources of the theatre to present poetry to new audiences. Although the 55-minute monologue is structured like a poetry reading, with Peacock's poems accompanied by more informal conversation, the theatre changes the experience, as the memorized words, the costume and set, the lighting, and the accompanying music performed live on stage by Andy Creeggan make the poetry more theatrical and more intimate at the same time. Peacock presents her life as a poet; and her poems' themes run from love, sex, and marriage to loss, death, and spirituality. The Shimmering Verge tries to draw its audience--many of whom might never attend a poetry reading--into the world of these poems, into the world where poetry comes from, and into the places where it communicates its magic to other people.

The show begins like this:

Imagine a paint chip – it's blue. Imagine another paint chip – it's green.

Now get one greenish blue. And another one bluish green.

Now get one greenish blue closer to bluish green.

Get it so close that that you don't know whether its blue or green anymore. . .

That's what I call the Shimmering Verge.

And that is the place where the poem occurs.


You are listening to an MP3 excerpt of Molly Peacock performing The Shimmering Verge with music by Andy Creeggan

Here are a selection of poems from The Shimmering Verge


Bury me in my pink pantsuit, my mother said--and I did.
But I'd never dressed you before! I saw the glint
of gold in your jewelry drawer and popped
those pincher clip-on earrings in a plastic bag
with pearls, a pink-and-gold pin, and your perfume.
("What's this?" the mortician said,
"Oh well, we'll spray some on.")
Now your words from the coffin: "Take my earrings off!
I've had them on all day, for God's sake!"
You've had them on five days. The lid's closed,
and the sharp stab of a femininity
you couldn't stand for more than two hours in life
is eternal- you'll never relax. I'm 400 miles away.
Should I call up the funeral home and have them removed?
You're not buried yet- stored till the ground thaws --
where, I didn't ask. Probably the mortician's garage.
I should have buried you in slippers and a bathrobe.
Instead, I gave them your shoes. Oh, please
do it for me. I can't stand the thought of you
pained by vanity forever. Reach your cold hand
up to your ear and pull and hear the click
of the clasp hinge unclasping, then reach
across your face and get the other one
and- this effort could take you days, I know,
since you're dead. Let it be your last effort:
to change my mistake and be dead in comfort.
Lower your hands in their places
on your low mound of stomach and rest, rest,
you can let go of the earrings. They'll fall
to the bottom of the casket like tokens,
return fare fallen to the pit
of a coat's satin pocket.


When you get nervous, it's so hard not to.
When you're expected to come in something
other than your ordinary way, to
take pleasure in the new way, lost, not knowing

how to drive it back to sureness. . . where are
the thousand thousand flowers I always pass,
the violet flannel, then the sharpness?

You can't, you can't . . . extinguish the star

Spoken tangling in the panels:

in a burst. It goes on glowing. That head
between your legs so long. Could it really
want to be there? One whimpers as though . . .
then gets mad. One could smash the other's valiant head.

"You didn't come, did you?" Naturally, he knows.
Although I try to lie, the truth escapes me
almost like an orgasm itself. Then the "No"
that should crack a world, but doesn't, slips free.



Do poets have a calling? I knew I had a calling after I got a phone call - nobody said a poet can't be a literalist.
It was Dr. Bruce Norcross, a chemistry professor, and I was twenty-three years old.

He said, "My daughter has just died of leukemia, and I hear that you are a young poet, and we will be needing poetry at our memorial service. I hope you will come and read a poem."

I had never met Dr. Bruce Norcross. And yet he expected me to summon up the words to soothe and comfort him, and to remember his little girl, a sprite I had never known.

As my mouth formed the word Yes,
I did not realize I was passing through the Verge.
I was in that place of poetry, but I didn't yet have the words.
I summoned up the courage to show up, but I read another poet's poem. You know, you have to be tempered by the Verge. You have to stay in that shimmer for a while, like maybe years, before you learn to say what you need to say and what, you hope, other people will need to hear.




I love desire, the state of want and thought
of how to get; building a kingdom in a soul
requires desire. I love the things I've sought-
you in your beltless bathrobe, tongues of cash that loll
from my billfold- and love what I want: clothes,
houses, redemption. Can a new mauve suit
equal God? Oh no, desire is ranked. To lose
a loved pen is not like losing faith. Acute
desire for nut gateau is driven out by death,
but the cake on its plate has meaning,
even when love is endangered and nothing matters.

For my mother, I wished for health; for my sister, bereft,
I wanted wholeness. But why is desire suffering?
Because want leaves a world in tatters?
How else but in tatters should a world be?
A columned porch set high above a lake.
Here, take my money. A loved face in agony,
the spirit gone. Here, use my rags of love.

Music Cue:
Moving out from the Verge, across the stage, sitting on stool stage left.
Music fades.

The poems in the monologue appear in print in CORNUCOPIA: New & Selected Poems, published by W.W. Norton and Company, 2002. Two interludes are adapted from Paradise, Piece by Piece, a literary memoir (Riverhead/Penguin Putnam, 1998).



© Molly Peacock -