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.

More by Catie Rosemurgy

Mostly Mick Jagger

               1

Thank god he stuck his tongue out.
When I was twelve I was in danger 
of taking my body seriously. 
I thought the ache in my nipple was priceless. 
I thought I should stay very still 
and compare it to a button, 
a china saucer, 
a flash in a car side-mirror, 
so I could name the ache either big or little, 
then keep it forever. He blew no one a kiss, 
then turned into a maw.

After I saw him, when a wish moved in my pants.
I nurtured it. I stalked around my room
kicking my feet up just like him, making
a big deal of my lips. I was my own big boy.
I wouldn't admit it then,
but be definitely cocks his hip
as if he is his own little girl.

               2

People ask me--I make up interviews
while I brush my teeth--"So, what do you remember best 
about your childhood?" I say
mostly the drive toward Chicago.
Feeling as if I'm being slowly pressed against the skyline. 
Hoping to break a window.
Mostly quick handfuls of boys' skin.
Summer twilights that took forever to get rid of.
Mostly Mick Jagger. 

               3

How do I explain my hungry stare?
My Friday night spent changing clothes?
My love for travel? I rewind the way he says "now" 
with so much roof of the mouth.
I rewind until I get a clear image of myself:
I'm telling the joke he taught me
about my body. My mouth is stretched open 
so I don't laugh. My hands are pretending
to have just discovered my own face. 
My name is written out in metal studs 
across my little pink jumper.
I've got a mirror and a good idea
of the way I want my face to look.
When I glance sideways my smile should twitch 
as if a funny picture of me is taped up 
inside the corner of my eye.
A picture where my hair is combed over each shoulder, 
my breasts are well-supported, and my teeth barely show. 
A picture where I'm trying hard to say "beautiful."

He always says "This is my skinny rib cage, 
my one, two chest hairs."
That's all he ever says. 
Think of a bird with no feathers
or think of a hundred lips bruising every inch of his skin.
There are no pictures of him hoping
he said the right thing.

Gold River

The arch in the bridge. The moment of architecture. 
The island where you lost your mother's keys. The photo she sent
of someone who looks like her walking to the point 
where the land becomes reminiscent of dissolving of flesh. 
The trees stamped onto our minds like traumas 
are supposed to be. The frightening blanks where the stores were. 
The sense the owners died. How many people killed by logs, 
do you think, over the years? The moon sitting greedily 
on your house. The carrying of one another 
when young, light, and poisoned. The doorsteps 
we were left on. The fox scat. The extra points in school. Who knew 
how prominently quarries featured? Only once or twice in a lifetime 
does one find the suicide or hear the primordial screaming. The towns nearby 	
that survive on museums of their earlier burning. The dreams set
in neighbor's houses. The mounds with hooves and bones sticking out. 
The gentle sloping. We will always be swimmers 
digging into the thaw. The former newness. The various cuts of meat. 
The places cats won't go. The climbing out onto the banks. The naked man 
working harmlessly in the woods. Like a milkweed or fox 
you are something that parted the dirt here. The rotting
that sets in when you leave. 

Winter in Gold River

Pretty girl. The weather has knocked her down again
and given her to the lake to wear as a skin.

Why am I always being the weather?
There were days in the winter
when her smile was so lovely I felt
the breathing of my own goodness, 

though it remained fetal and separate.
I was a scavenger who survives

with a sling and stones, but whose god
nonetheless invents the first small bright bird.
And it was like flight to bring food to her lips

with a skeletal hand. But now she will always
be naked and sad. She will be what happens

to lake water that is loved and is also
shallow enough. The thickening, the slowing,
the black blood of it, the chest opened
to reveal the inevitable heart attack.

God, the silence of the chamber
we watch from. What happens to water
that isn't loved? It undergoes processes.

It freezes beside traffic.
But the reaching out to all sides at once,
the wet closing of what was open?
That is a beautiful woman.

So of course I stand and stare, never able
to pinpoint the exact moment I killed her.

Related Poems

October (section I)

Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn't Frank just slip on the ice,
didn't he heal, weren't the spring seeds planted

didn't the night end,
didn't the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters

wasn't my body
rescued, wasn't it safe

didn't the scar form, invisible
above the injury

terror and cold,
didn't they just end, wasn't the back garden
harrowed and planted—

I remember how the earth felt, red and dense,
in stiff rows, weren't the seeds planted,
didn't vines climb the south wall

I can't hear your voice
for the wind's cries, whistling over the bare ground

I no longer care
what sound it makes

when was I silenced, when did it first seem
pointless to describe that sound

what it sounds like can't change what it is—

didn't the night end, wasn't the earth
safe when it was planted

didn't we plant the seeds,
weren't we necessary to the earth,

the vines, were they harvested?