Meghan O'Rourke


I was born a bastard in an amphetamine spree,

            lit through with a mother’s quickenings,

burrowing into her, afraid she would not have me,

            and she would not have me.


I dropped out down below the knees 

            of a rickrack halterdress,


sheeted, tented knees, water breaking, linoleum peeling,

            and no one there to see but me,


I woke on the floor as if meant to

            put her back together, to try to hold on to her


like a crate to a river, as if I’d been shipped down

            to stand straight while in the misgiving


she said I had a dream of thirty-six sticks

            floating down a river and a dog who couldn’t swim


and I could not swim, I slipped from her grip

            in a room where two orange cats stared


like tidy strangers at a world of larger strangeness,

            and I had no name, I was there at her breast


and I thought I could see her, the swag of her hair, the jaw, the fearing,

            but I barely saw, I went sliding down the river


from a house in which it was sweet to sleep,

            and the cool of the sheets


was never cool enough, and the imprint of the bedded bodies

            diving, at once, took the shape of two geese.



"Descent" is from Halflife (W. W. Norton, 2007).