Dear Melissa By TC Tolbert
Part Four of the American Academy of Poets Weeklong Poetry & the Body Series
This is the fourth poem in a weeklong series from the American Academy of Poets called Poetry & the Body.
I wish you (my mother once told me—mother of my child-
hood—even though water is water-weary—what is prayer if not quiet
who has made me—what hands you become when you touch—
who laid down on whose body—whose face and whose shoulders
worth shaking—what will I not hear when I look back
at you—who is not the mother of a daughter—who is not
the mother of a man—we are right to be afraid of our bodies—wind
is carried by what is upright and still moves what has) had
(been buried deep enough in the ground to be called roots—
when will this be the world where you stop—whatever broke
into you was torn by the contact—a face wears a face it can see—
what is alive is unrecognizable—need it be—who is my mother,
mother—no one—who hasn’t killed herself by
growing into someone—I’m sorry you have) never been born.
About This Poem
Melissa is the name of the young woman I once was and when I was her (and when I was her twin, Missy) my mother, in fits of desperation and rage at raising two kids with no money on her own, would sometimes yell, “I wish you had never been born.” This poem attempts to open up that language so that all involved could become someone new.
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