Don’t let the baby swallow your words,
the ones that arrive in the night
as you swaddle her, singing.
Repeat into her tiny ears the rhymes
you will write in the morning.
She won’t mind what it is, as long
as you sing softly and rock her gently
in the rhythm of your next poem.
This will keep the words from
stifling you, from choking her.
She loves all your creations.
The lines you remember at dawn
will become the maps she will take
away from these sweet days
and nights in your arms.
I am from corn, hot Iowa miles of it, and the smell of ether
seeping from a leather bag on top of the fridge. I am from
pony men and card sharks, drunks, and steam engine train drivers.
I am from blue pencil marks on galley proofs, typed on an upright
Royal. I am from screen doors slapping against armies of Canadian
soldiers. I am from the dog days of August, the ice storms
of winter, and the frozen mud-trenched roads of spring.
I am from a lake that died and a river that burned, from the Erie
the Cuyahoga, and a town called Ashtabula. I am from ore boats
on the horizon with the foghorn sounding a warning across the lake
on a still autumn night. I am from the Bascule bridge, the brick yards,
the rail yards, and a back yard that held a Great Lake. I am from
a ham-fisted man with a fedora and a black skirted priest; both
with whiskey breath and an enviable reach.
I am from among her effects: The loose powder box of pasteboard
stuffed with old letters. My dearest Girl, I read, and Dear Grand Girl.
I am from tenant farmers on Mayo’s Foot of the Reek
to McCarthy’s farm on Allegheny’s Black Creek, finally
returned from the forced migration known as an Gorta Mór. *
* The Great Hunger
The L Word
Love is a thing of twoness.
– D.H. Lawrence
The rock and the roll of it
the neck-arcing ache of it
the soft honeyed silence
at the beginning and end of it
the sweet tender risk of it
the quiet quickening of it
the sound of your heart
beating in sync with mine.
The dear sweat and wet of it
the swelling tide smell of it
the heat at the height of it
the depth and the breadth
of the give and the take
we sleep and vow to keep
passion and love alive, beshert.
We have both world enough, and time.*
* Andrew Marvel, to his coy mistress.
The above poems are
Copyright © Felicia McCarthy, 2023