Susan Scarlata On the World & the Earth in Aaron McCollough’s “Rank”

McCollough Photo

Toward the end of his poem “Rank” Aaron McCollough calls up a differentiation between the words “world” and “earth” and the various things they each represent. He writes:

the world is coming,

but it’s not the world, what’s coming is
the earth, the clay expelling water

These lines encapsulate something I love about poetry, and it is maybe only poetry that gets specific enough about language to do it. These lines make me think about entirely basic words, often used interchangeably to mean the same thing, and then within that thinking they have me considering their differences.

With their revision of meaning from line to line and stanza to stanza (“the world is coming, /but it’s not the world”) I imagine a globe and the endless number of things that make up “the world” for me. Then the thought is revised and it is the “the earth” that is coming, and the way McCollough inverts the phrase “what’s coming is” allows for an instance of questioning as that line breaks.

When it is “the earth” that is coming I, again, imagine the globe or macro images of this ball floating through space that we call “earth,” but then McCollough brings us to the other meaning of earth. With the words “clay” and “water” we are down in the earth, and can feel how elemental (as in of the elements) this version of earth coming truly is.

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