A Place Poem
by Carolyn Srygley-Moore


If I could only remember my homeland, describe
its purple iris unfolding like prophecy, describe its state bird, or the Susquehanna
lapping its sandy banks like truths
of ancient bridge players calling trump in another room
when I am a child, if only pretending to be a child. This morning you told me
it's too early to know who I am, I said look in the mirror, it will behold you -
speak forth your name & you are relevant, watch
your own raw unpainted mouth sound out the sounds,
the applause of fractured syllables invoking the glade you once nested
within your mother, a half century back. You can name the place you're from,
at least, you know why it is
you wear only black trenchcoats in the midsummer heat; you know why as a kid
you'd creep down the back stairs at night, after the kitchen was closed,
& carry morsels of chocolate cake out to the starving bald eagles
nested alongside the shimmering reservoir of drinking water where
the radical Islamists could have dumped rat poison, though back then
Ground Zero was just a term, not a place,
& the enemy took another shape. I cannot find my own place of becoming,
just multiple places, scattered pinpricks in my index finger
dripping plasma onto my father's handkerchief, a lusterless pink, my
watered-down blood . . .Yes, the marina, the treehouse, the kitchen
of glass supper tables thrown & limbs smashed to fictions . . .

Now we lie in the dark, on our stomachs, in the public planetarium,
the hush of a world lived under God's breath,
the stars & planets circling around - we cannot see them, yet we are dizzy
as from some biblical wine or waste - & we are talking
about the blue oak of my childhood, how it lived its life & accepted death
in the very same location: & yet it changed, morphed, was altered
by the brutality of the elements, the whimsy of humankind . . .
You invoke scattered birds of your childhood like an island obeah,
totems & taboo, until we smell & sound like new kittens
just realizing the pain of first snow.


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