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Poetry Moment: Anna Rose Welch and 'This Is How You Beg'

Poet Anna Rose Welch

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Shara McCallum is this year’s Penn State Laureate.

Today’s poem is “This is How You Beg” by Anna Rose Welch.

Anna Rose Welch is the author of the poetry collection We, the Almighty Fires, from which today’s poem is drawn. She was born, raised, and currently lives in Erie. In addition to being a poet, Welch is the chief editor of a pharmaceutical publication, a violinist, and—in her words—a “very amateur but incredibly determined ballerina.”

“This Is How You Beg” is marked by a relentless voice. The “you” in the title and throughout reads as the speaker talking to herself, while she narrates digging in the garden and finding “long buried” bones of a pair of canaries—a surreal story that feels like allegory. This is especially so, given the Christian allusions threaded throughout the poem, notably the story of Eve being made from Adam’s rib. All the elements of the poem combine to sound the voice of someone grappling with scripture as it relates to gender roles. In this soaring lyric poem, Welch seeks a way to unearth the figure of woman and rebuild her in a new image.


This Is How You Beg

With a trowel, chipping bit by bit at the garden.
You find a pair of canaries—your mother’s—long buried,
fallen wild. Gone, every muscle, wing, and feather tying the body
together. In your hands, their skeletons like light
slumped over a windowsill, broken-necked.
According to scripture, all you need is faith the size of a claw
to command whatever has left you to return.
Be uprooted and planted here again 
in this cage I’ve built for you, you should say. Open your arms
wide as if the hull of a long lost ark was coming to shore itself
against you. So often your mouth feels like the sky
in a dark, buttoned up gown. Remember, that female bird
wasn’t built to sing either, in accordance with science.
Take her fibula and tibia, made perfect from perching.
Take the radius and ulna from her clipped wings and replace his
with hers. It should feel like you’ve rebuilt man
from woman’s most essential parts. This must be how God felt
when he wrapped the rest of you around something as small
as a man’s rib and expected it to give you life.

That was “This is How You Beg” by Anna Rose Welch.
Thank you for sharing this moment of poetry with me today.

Shara McCallum was the 2021-22 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.
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