Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Sweet

        Linda,
said my mother when the buildings fell,

before, you understand, we knew a thing
        about the reasons or the ways
       
        and means,
while we were still dumbfounded, still

bereft of likely narratives, we cannot
        continue to live in a world where we

        have so much
and other people have so little.

Sweet, he said.
        Your mother’s wrong but sweet, the world

        has never self-corrected,
you Americans break my heart.

Our possum—she must be hungry or
        she wouldn’t venture out in so

        much daylight—has found
a way to maneuver on top of the snow.

Thin crust. Sometimes her foot breaks through.
        The edge

        of the woods for safety or
for safety’s hopeful look-alike. Di-

delphis, “double-wombed,” which is
        to say, our one marsupial:

        the shelter then
the early birth, then shelter perforce again.

Virginiana for the place. The place
        for a queen

        supposed to have her maidenhead.
He was clever.

He had moved among the powerful.
        Our possum—possessed

        of thirteen teats, or so
my book informs me, quite a ready-made

republic—guides
        her blind and all-but-embryonic

        young to their pouch
by licking a path from the birth canal.

Resourceful, no? Requiring
        commendable limberness, as does

        the part I’ve seen, the part
where she ferries the juveniles on her back.

Another pair of eyes above
        her shoulder. Sweet. The place

        construed as yet-to-be-written-upon-
by-us.

And many lost. As when
        their numbers exceed the sources of milk

        or when the weaker ones fall
by the wayside. There are

principles at work, no doubt:
        beholding a world of harm, the mind

        will apprehend some bringer-of-harm,
some cause, or course,

that might have been otherwise, had we possessed
        the wit to see.

        Or ruthlessness. Or what? Or heart.
My mother’s mistake, if that’s

the best the world-as-we’ve-made-it
        can make of her, hasn’t

        much altered with better advice. It’s
wholly premise, rather like the crusted snow.

Credit


From Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976–2014 (Mariner Books, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Linda Gregerson. Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

Author


Linda Gregerson

Linda Gregerson’s book Waterborne won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize, and her book The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. She currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Date Published: 2016-10-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/sweet