Published on Academy of American Poets (


That’s us: the bruise on my thigh, a Camel
dangling from your beautiful mouth
and this our favorite wedding picture. The vows:
      (1) Do I take thee Wife
as wedge against the fear

of sleeping alone
in Southeast Asia?

      (2) Do I take thee Husband as solace
for all the girls ever wanted? For the ones kissed

and held by and held.

Twenty years later I am queer as
a happy Monday and you dead from cancer—

lung or liver, I no longer know
anyone to ask and made up the cause, cancer 
I say, because the paper said you died at home.
And that there was a child after besides the one before
and nothing to mark the one 
we washed away.
I dream of her sometimes, little toothless sack of skin.
with something, nothing, something 
swimming inside. 
                                     But more often
I dream of a house I once lived in,

a certain room, a street, its light. I wake 
trying to remember which country, 
what language. Not the house
where we lived and its bodies.
How they come and go

late at night, nearly dawn. I am making 
crepes and coffee and the group from the bar 
can’t believe their luck.
What did we talk about? I am trying to remember
and not trying to remember
how I tried or never tried to love you.


Copyright © 2020 by Janet McAdams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I think most poets are obsessed with memory and I am no exception. I have moved around a great deal in my life, and I dream often about the houses and rooms of places where I once lived. When I dream about those pasts, it’s as if they are ongoing, simultaneous with the life I live now, the place I now inhabit, spatially and temporally. The dreams are charged with both loss and relief, offering distillations of memory I can’t fully trust. I am left wondering what finally matters more, the past or the story we construct about the past.”
Janet McAdams


Janet McAdams

Janet McAdams’ recent collection is Seven Boxes for the Country After (Kent State University Press, 2016) winner of the Wick Chapbook competition.

Date Published: 2020-11-25

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