At the Metropolitan Museum

I had sworn I wouldn’t write
another poem about my mom
but in the museum there is a room
filled with centuries-old pottery sherds
and it is difficult not to start seeing
symbols everywhere. We walk through
the frigid air toward a reconstructed
temple, likely stolen, I say, and she
looks at me. A rope keeps us from going
further. Who are you texting? she asks
and I want to scream but don't.
What question could she ask
that wouldn't make me bristle?
I once called our fights a kind of dance
in a poem I rightly tore up. I won’t
call it anything I tell myself in the poem
I told myself I wouldn’t write.
I’d change the subject but resistance
is a sign to go forward, I tell my students
because something is wrong with me.
So I go forward into what it might mean
to struggle a few hours with the one
who made me, whose dark I once lived
inside. We step into the centuries
between us and the vessels behind glass
which once held water, grain, and now
the silence of a light so gentle
as to not damage the precious things.

More by Matthew Siegel

I See You in the Field of My Mind Baby Moo Cow

Your look makes me want to jump off the roof
of the modern art museum. How am I supposed
to tell you about my life? Yesterday I saw a turtle
eat a dandelion flower up close. I cannot say what
this might mean to you. It was on my phone,
which is where I’ve been living lately. I can’t expect
you to understand. I cry openly and you stare at me
with big wet cow-eyes. I tell you what the abyss is like.
I heard breathing. It was my own. I wasn’t terrified.
Loneliness binds me to myself but I use my phone
as a wedge, use it to keep myself from touching who
I am. Nobody wants to grow up, not even children.
They just want to be taller because they hate being
looked down upon. What is it we see when we turn
and look back? Salt? Pepper? I’ll take both. No more
questions. All I want is to sit in this field with you,
little cow, this field I built in my mind. I pet you, make
little noises. You try to move away but I hold on to you,
I throw my arms around your neck. You drop
your dark head, continue chewing what you chew.

[My pills doze until I wake them]

My pills doze until I wake them
on the shelf

behind the bathroom mirror,
the one I see myself in

curled over, whimpering,
eyes dark and heavy

like lakes at night.
My pills doze until I shake them

and they dissolve inside me,
make complicated arrangements

with my biology.
They sleep and I take them,

gathered in the cup of my hand.
They tick against my teeth

and I hold my hand over my mouth
as if to shut them up.

 

 

[And sometimes I know I am having a feeling]

And sometimes I know I am having a feeling
but I don't want to have a feeling so I close up
like a book or a jacket or a sack which holds
a body. Don't mind me, I'll just be dead in here,
you can drag me wherever you want, the body
seems to say. You laugh like a little silver moon.
You laugh like the moon on the water ignored
by necking lovers. You said you didn't like that word
because something so sweet should not call to mind
giraffes, but I love the word “necking,” the way it twists
in on itself, like what I do to you when I want
to disappear in you, leave the sack of my body
strewn on the shore of you. Sometimes I'm inside
the sack and then sometimes I am nothing more
than the stitching which keeps it from bursting.
Sometimes I carry the sack and sometimes the sack
carries me. I only know the difference sometimes.
Do you ever feel like it's difficult to figure out
what you're feeling? I have that all the time, especially
when I look out a window or at your open face
across from me in bed, or your closed face
when I see the quiet pain you contain, or which
contains you. I know you're more than that
frown which makes your face resemble a fist
with gorgeous black hair. I know you contain more
than the reaction to my words or my body.
Some of us have to learn to love with hands
interlocked, but each with our own hand.

Related Poems

Another Poem for Mothers

Mother, I'm trying
to write
a poem to you—


which is how most
poems to mothers must
begin—or, What I've wanted
to say, Mother.
..but we
as children of mothers,
even when mothers ourselves,

cannot bear our poems
to them. Poems to
mothers make us feel

little again. How to describe
that world that mothers spin
and consume and trap

and love us in, that spreads
for years and men and miles?
Those particular hands that could

smooth anything: butter on bread,
cool sheets or weather. It's
the wonder of them, good or bad,

those mother-hands that pet
and shape and slap,
that sew you together
the pieces of a better house
or life in which you'll try
to live. Mother,

I've done no better
than the others, but for now,
here is your clever failure.