poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

occasions

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.

TC Tolbert

TC Tolbert

TC Tolbert is the author of Gephyromania (Ahsahta Press, 2014).

by this poet

poem

a curve billed thrasher
is cleaning its beak on the ground—
we are closer now than ever—sitting
in shadow—I never want to scare
anyone—not really—I have a friend
who loves people who come out
suddenly—in the dark—
                                    pleasure
is the same

2