Published on Academy of American Poets (

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.


Copyright © 2017 by Matthew Siegel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem is about facing a felt experience that the conscious mind resists while the unconscious demands further inquiry. The mother in the poem is both an obstacle and a path to a greater presence of mind. The challenge is getting the consciousness in line with the project of feeling what a given moment asks of us so we can uncover its lessons.”
—Matthew Siegel


Matthew Siegel

Matthew Siegel is the author of Blood Work (University of Wisconsin Press, 2015), winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and lives in San Francisco, California.

Date Published: 2017-02-15

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