after Apollinaire

Click here to listen to Meghan O’Rourke read this poem.

I was born a bastard in an amphetamine spree, lit through with a mother’s quickenings,

and I burrowed 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

was never cool enough, the imprint of the bedded bodies
           two geese diving at once.