Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Streaming-hair woman wanders the hallway
in flowered nightgown, Where is my family?
Where is my mother? When will they come? Led back

to her room again and again. When the body dies slowly,
the mind lives a museum version.
When Eisenhower was president everyone had a mother,

Mamie wore her serviceable pearl necklace and
nobody needed to be gorgeous because
there was work to do and the pill hadn’t been invented

so action and consequence were one,
and the sidewalk was cracked. Trees
and houses were huger than they would ever

be again, tadpoles squiggled, and the rest took care
of itself. I don’t know when it was
that the mighty structures began to live inside me

and I myself became the nation and the wind
began howling and the gut of the nation
began rumbling. I will tell you a story:

Once upon a time there were world wars,
the Korean War, there was McCarthy,
there was terror and confusion, there was Al Capone,

even, and it seemed that would never end.
How would it end? It ended
in newspaper words, an official version gathered

like a squirrel’s nest in winter, a blob on a branch
so high it seemed impossible. Even
in Eisenhower’s time: squirrels. And you wonder

how long the experiment of your life will continue
while water quivers and wood rots
and the museum is erected, everything’s explained

on a plaque. “Don’t be scared,” we’d said to each other
in the dark, but nothing happened
except this living, this flex of dark and light.

And Eisenhower, bald, canonical, moved far out of reach,
and the woman wandering the hallway,
opening door after door, is checking to see if

America has finally come back from its long, long trip.  

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