Published on Academy of American Poets (

Manifest Destiny

The god I’d left behind sent one last email 
before returning to his people.

That summer was sixty-five degrees and fluorescent. 
I was working at a law firm.

The logical mind thinks,
You’ll be paid for your suffering.

Paradise is of this earth 
and it is yours,
said the copy-machine.

The impenetrable old growth of paper on my desk 
begged to be made

When I took off my skirt-suit I felt like my mother, or myself

done pretending 
to be my mother.

I stood at the edge 
of a New World.

I stared up the long rocky coast.

Whichever way was something to bump against 
I pressed on in that direction.

It was like a sickness.
It was like the uncontrollable urge 
to eat dirt.


Copyright © 2013 by Cynthia Lowen. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on December 27, 2013.

About this Poem

"I’ve been exploring how the 19th century concept of manifest destiny—driving the westward expansion across North America in the 1800s—might play out in the context of a modern-day relationship. What frontiers in ourselves, our environments, and each other do we seek out and attempt to dominate? What motivates us to forge towards the unknown?"
—Cynthia Lowen


Cynthia Lowen

Cynthia Lowen grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, and received her BA from Colorado College and her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

She is the author of The Cloud That Contained the Lightning (University of Georgia Press, 2013), winner of the 2012 National Poetry Series. Nikky Finney, who served as the judge, writes, “In The Cloud That Contained the Lightning the unstable walls of the human heart meet the intimate walls of atomic energy. There is decay. There is bloom. Cynthia Lowen skillfully and fiercely tunnels into the world and mind of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, observes, magically imagines, and then maps forward a critical American life.”

Lowen is the recipient of the Campbell Corner Poetry Prize and the “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Contest. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Date Published: 2013-12-27

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