Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Issue Thirty-eight
Summer 2015
The America your mother drew
Maggie Smith

is an imagined nation. Curled like the tail
of a lowercase Q, her Long Island dangles
where Florida should be. My Ohio isn’t
even there, not yet parceled, not yet
roughly heart-shaped, but I know I’m here
by the lump in my throat, the Maynards’ mutt
incessantly barking on my childhood street.
The gaps allowed in memory a map can’t have.
Every place must be someplace. What if
your mother’s idea of America predates
America? What if her Great Plains are dotted
with buffalo, her Midwest so thick with trees,
rungs of sunlight can’t reach the ground?
On your mother’s map, I could leave
Illinois and cross emptiness until Alaska.
Civilization drops off like a radio station
into static, then crackles back into a song.
Don’t worry about it ending. Nothing does,
not really. What if any place is empty
before we arrive? The lawn might make itself
from scratch each time I open the door.
If I open it too quickly, for a split second
there might be nothing—then everything
would fill in, as if a wet brush had been
dragged across a paint-with-water page.

About Maggie Smith

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