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About this Poem 

"In my book The Forage House, I blend seemingly official histories with the blurry but persistent images that become family lore, that shape personal legends. This poem is one of my founding stories: in 1977, before I was born, my parents lived in a the former kitchen of an un-renovated commune in Fort Greene, in a house that was crumbling then and is now worth 2 million dollars, or something equally enormous. I was on the way, New York was rather grim, Brooklyn was grimmer, and neither of my parents could find steady work. In my mind there are all these wild-haired characters moving around making barley casserole and howling. The painter, by the way, was Jonathan Lethem's dad, and the commune held Jonathan Lethem and his sister and brothers in a wild seventies heyday. My parents left. I actually went on, much later, to have a more traditional childhood, married parents, sun-glazed suburb, church on Sundays, a dog. But there's this persistent image of this alternate genealogy of our wildness, of our possible other lives. I love the photos of my parents in the moments just before they knew me, and the alternate image of myself as a young Brooklynite. Years later, when I graduated college, I moved back to Brooklyn; I actually lived about six blocks from this house. Jonathan Lethem and I joke that I was his in utero roommate. That's kind of cool."
—Tess Taylor

Wedding Album 1977

My parents kissing in a kitchen.
In her loop-eyed dress my mother—

enormous in her belly, I loom.
In a commune in Fort Greene

she typed and typed her dissertation.
Upstairs a woman practiced primal screams,

a wild-haired painter mourned his dying wife.
My parents had already made my life

near the mass grave
of hundreds of Revolutionary soldiers,

a cockeyed brownstone full of junkies,
somebody who stripped my parents’ jalopy

down to wires and bones.
Soon they sold all they had

and drove to Madison to have me.
Had five people over for pie.

It was done then: They were married.
Weeks later in their bedroom I was born.

In piles my mother’s writing
watched us from unquiet bricks and boards.

Copyright © 2013 by Tess Taylor. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 21, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Tess Taylor. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on August 21, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Tess Taylor

Tess Taylor

Tess Taylor is the author of Work & Days (Red Hen Press, 2016) and The Forage House (Red Hen Press, 2013).

by this poet


How again today our patron star
whose ancient vista is the long view

turns its wide brightness now and here:
Below, we loll outdoors, sing & make fire.

We build no henge
but after our swim, linger

by the pond. Dapples flicker
pine trunks by the water.

Buzz & hum


We unstave the winter’s tangle.
Sad tomatoes, sullen sky.

We unplay the summer’s blight.
Rotted on the vine, black fruit

swings free of strings that bound it.
In the compost, ghost melon; in the fields

grotesque extruded peppers.
We prod half-thawed mucky things. 

In the


   Albemarle County

The ridge a half mile down from Monticello.
A pit cut deeper than the plow line.
Archaeologists plot the dig by scanning

plantation land mapped field
for carbon, ash, traces of human dwelling.
We stand