said my mother when the buildings fell,
before, you understand, we knew a thing
about the reasons or the ways
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.
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.
of thirteen teats, or so
my book informs me, quite a ready-made
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-
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.
From Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976–2014 (Mariner Books, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Linda Gregerson. Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Date Published: 2016-10-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/sweet