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Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication. For more information about how to syndicate Poem-a-Day, contact [email protected].

Dear Melissa:

Poem-a-Day: "Dear Melissa:" by TC Tolbert

About this Poem 
“Melissa is the name of the young woman I once was, and when I was her (and when I was her twin, Missy), my mother, in fits of desperation and rage at raising two kids with no money on her own, would sometimes yell, ‘I wish you had never been born.’ This poem attempts to open up that language so that all involved could become someone new.”
—TC Tolbert 

Dear Melissa:

I wish you (my mother once told me—mother of my child-
hood—even though water is water-weary—what is prayer if not quiet
who has made me—what hands you become when you touch—
who laid down on whose body—whose face and whose shoulders

worth shaking—what will I not hear when I look back
at you—who is not the mother of a daughter—who is not
the mother of a man—we are right to be afraid of our bodies—wind
is carried by what is upright and still moves what has) had

(been buried deep enough in the ground to be called roots—
when will this be the world where you stop—whatever broke 
into you was torn by the contact—a face wears a face it can see—
what is alive is unrecognizable—need it be—who is my mother,

mother—no one—who hasn’t killed herself by
growing into someone—I’m sorry you have) never been born. 

Copyright © 2018 by TC Tolbert. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by TC Tolbert. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

previous poems

datesort ascending title author
March 20, 2018 Citizenship Javier Zamora
March 19, 2018 Facing US Amanda Johnston
March 18, 2018 Elegy in Translation Meg Day
March 17, 2018 Ulysses Alfred Lord Tennyson
March 16, 2018 Transubstantiation Matthew Dickman
March 15, 2018 OBIT Victoria Chang
March 14, 2018 Arthritis Carol Moldaw
March 13, 2018 Hide and Seek Charles Simic
March 12, 2018 My Nothings Ama Codjoe
March 11, 2018 Echo Christina Rossetti