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About this Poem 

"I often find poetry in the convergence of memory and the present. For example, my parents took me to Gettysburg in 1983. I saw a shirtless man with long hair who was breaking a melon against the side of a metal garbage can. It wasn’t until years later that I pondered exactly what that melon would taste like on such a day."
—Mary Biddinger

In the Back Seat of History

Mary Biddinger

We lived in Gettysburg like vagrant
prospectors, driven by the scent
of knees and a profound love of dimes

if by dimes you meant knees, and we
were always kneeling before
one altar or another, making sacrifice

as you called it. Your trunk was full
of coffee filters and insoles.
Somebody stole your brother’s bike

and that was all the reason needed.
We broke our melon the old
fashioned way, which is to say

not at all. You’d kneecap that bastard.
I knelt in front of you kneading
the last few pages of John Donne’s

Holy Sonnets like an exquisite loaf
of historically-derived rye.
When I got to the end I wasn’t sure

if breathing was polite, or necessary.
Later I stood in the alley
wearing red tatters of high school.

Our motel was packed with the cry
from a broken television,
the kind that lived between your ribs.

Copyright © 2013 by Mary Biddinger. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on July 11, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Mary Biddinger