That Morning in August By Marie Anzalone

That Morning in August

She told me but this isn’t poetry. Poetry is nice. It
should make me feel good. So, I tried.
I tried to write only of ephemeral kisses and happy
well-fed people. Of carefree sparrows and respect
for my leaders and my great dream of marrying the
right man with nice straight teeth and a morning power
routine and our two perfect children.
Of emotionally safe sex and love of angels
and puppies.

Then I dreamed I was dying in a cage made of
daytime television and bleach and Styrofoam. I
started to hear voices, and they rose as a crescendo
and a trumpet and a nuclear air raid siren.

They told me of what the tree said in its own defense.
The lullaby the wind sang to the pines on their last night
before a visit from men with chainsaws.
I felt what a tired bird feels in your city when one day
everything it knew is concrete.
I read an opinion of war written in blood on the
walls and vast silences of shelled homes.
I read the clinical notes of the night-shift nurse
in San Pedro Sula.
I read what comforted a girl giving birth on a refugee
boat in the Adriatic Sea.

They told me, Poetry:
is what is exposed when the polish of “nice”
wears thin and falls away.
It is what the boy who committed suicide could not
find to tell his family;
and what the kid in a robbery could not say
to his friends.
It is what people who only ever ride in cars miss,
that makes them hate the bus rider;
and what the bus-rider might put into words
if she knew how, and were not too tired,
from riding in buses.

It is the raw freedom exposed when you permit
the loving mother of your children
to ask you, without apology, to fuck me like a whore;
but also, the unit used to measure space between
two lovers who share a bed but no longer
a heart.
It is what the orphan could teach you about the
sanctity of family; as much as saving the life
of the woman who married your ex, also could.
Or the woman who lost her child, blaming the
one who decided not to give birth.

It is what I think you meant when you said, “if only…
I had met you 10 year earlier.”

It is what my friend did not say to his mother in time.
What we did not see in the mirror by Nagasaki’s reflected light
that morning in August; and what those on the ground
did see.
It is my aunt walking into cancer’s battlefield, armed
only with a can of sarcasm.

It is what you miss most when you are so far
from the last place you called home;
and what you see on those inevitable midnight walks
when no place or person or building
has ever been home.
It is the stranger at your table, and the thief
in your family; and that knowing look when you
are trapped in a meeting and you see
the face of the only other person there who
understands you.
It is the guilt of being joyful while others are still suffering.

It is that last fence standing after
a century of wind and waves had their say.

Poetry is the sum total of all things raw and tender,
and more,
that I have ever wanted to, but could not,
say, to anyone, including you,
to and about and for, you. These are all things
I do not think she, living in a house made of straight
protected and committee-approved
lines and desires,
can comprehend today. This is how poetry
has always invaded the houses of those who are
already dead.

author’s note: Inspired partly by a reading of Heather McHugh’s intensely shattering poem, “What He Thought.” This poem was translated from its original in Spanish, which can be found here:

By Marie Anzalone


Marie Anzalone is a development worker researching climate change effects in the rural Guatemalan highlands, where she lives with an active volcano in her backyard and a passionate love for all things arts and sciences. She crunches precipitation data and interviews poor farm wives on her good days and humbles herself the rest of the time presenting poetry in Spanish in front of a tough crowd who are quick to remind her of every gender and verb tense error she has ever made. She has been writing poetry for more than 15 years, and would like to offer a few pieces for consideration in your esteemed publication. She is offering the following 5 poems: “41 Fireflies,” “That Morning in August,” “Daily Consumption,” “Maternal Line,” and “The Freedom of a Rainy Day.”

Her creative writing and essays and short stories have been published in the Namaste Human Rights Journal of the University of Connecticut (2010), and several times in The Larcenist, Rising Phoenix Press, and Versewrights. She has published three stand-alone books of poetry, which may be found under her author profile on Goodreads and on Amazon, and has had works included in several creative writing anthologies. The five pieces she is offering have not been previously published through any print format other than her personal blog on Writers Café.

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