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Poem-A-Day

Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year.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 by King Features.

America Talks to Me Like a Mother

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 27, 2016.
About this Poem 

“‘America Talks to Me Like a Mother’ is from a series of poems about American hometowns in general and more specifically about a fictional version of the town that I think of as my home. Here I imagine myself being directly involved in local history and living through the 1871 forest fire that devastated a large swath of the upper Midwest. Of course I imagine myself living. For those of us who are descendants of colonizers, what a broken and dangerous relationship we have to place, landscape, history, home, sleep, and waking.”
—Catie Rosemurgy

America Talks to Me Like a Mother

Don’t worry. One kills in dreams
but wakes having not killed.

Having not killed is part of waking. Some mornings, though,
you lay there pinned under layers of light, fear,

and woolen blankets.
You know what’s right and what’s wrong,
what you don’t know is what happened
and if you were actually there.

That’s why dreams of digging a deep hole with a stolen shovel
are so confusing. That’s why you expect to jerk awake
when you stand in a pile of dry brush
holding a lit match in your hand.

The best thing to do, always,
is get up and walk down the stairs.
Don’t leave.
Not yet.

Wait awhile in the kitchen, it doesn’t matter whose kitchen,
and let the house absorb the blame.
That’s what a house is for.

You aren’t screaming,
you’re insisting
because you’re always wrong,
even while you sit on the ground before daybreak waiting
for enough light to gather sticks.
You don’t know yet what a stick is.
You can’t be expected to remember anything
once you’ve seen the sun rise.

All day long, you walk back and forth through the field,
standing guard over what didn’t happen
to keep it from mixing with what did.
You didn’t shoot the gun, you just listened well
when people talked about how to do it.
You didn’t walk unscathed through the fire,
you walked unscathed over it.
You happened to find a narrow bridge.

You wouldn’t purposely hurt anyone,
but keep describing all the ways that you would.
List all the things that never happened,
and see if you can suck clean the edges of what did.

Copyright © 2016 by Catie Rosemurgy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Catie Rosemurgy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

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