Mistaken Self-Portrait as Mother of an Unmade Daughter

Meghan O'Rourke

Do you not want to be alive?
I can’t say I don’t understand—

To bring something into the world,
a creature that will be ruled by the conflict between its “will”
      and its impulses, surroundings, limitations. . . .

We choose many things, but we can’t say we choose existence.
My existence is not mine
the way my opinions are, my blue crepe pants,
my taste for cherries.

My existence belongs in some sense to my parents, and to
the universe—or God, if you believe in God.

It belongs to evolution,
the galaxy and the space beyond,
to black holes, to red dwarfs, to
hydrogen and oxygen and carbon.

My existence belongs to iron.

I understand, in a way, my body’s
to impose existence on another—

      and yet I—I almost feel you are real

and I know you, turning over the beach shell in my hands,
remembering the red sailboat shirt you wore all this summer,

with a button for the yellow sun—

• •

With my small phone always tucked about my person

under the great lavender sky I’ll set forth
on a pilgrimage

to the bridge that way            accept

the noble truth

which is to be absorbed
in the enormity of it without fail

even if the precipice
keeps leaving you voice mails—

• •

Perhaps the reason you don’t come
is that it is more painful
to me to have you
than not to?

      : the person who first put a boat
in a bottle
and later wondered
why she’d had the impulse
to contain—

• •

Before you have sight
the colors sway underneath your eyes
like kelp.

It is false to speak like this, but
false not to speak of you—

all the language I have for you
is ornamental—

but the sun is no ornament

go out and see it
stand under it rushing onward
let the body go borderless and drained

a scrim

for the light to come through.


Read more poems by Meghan O’Rourke by purchasing a print or digital copy of the July/Aug 2017 issue here.

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