How Damage Can Lead To Poetry

Kelli Russell Agodon

            roots: both sustain & strangle

It’s morning and there’s a poem in my jacket

             pocket, and I like how that sounds:

jacket pocket,

but I’m thinking about what the stranger penciled

            in my book, how he circled the word

mistakes, then wrote, how damage can lead

to poetry.

            We are quiet birds under the morning

glory — jacket pocket — in the near-heart of the dying

hydrangeas. Damage creates the thought

            of brokenness: my garden never had enough

                           songbirds, my life never had enough

song. It’s morning and there’s a poem in my family

             history — I know the suicides, the stories

                          of strange deaths: brother choking

on a balloon, sister tripping on the church steps

                            and hitting her head so perfectly

her arteries became a celebration, Bastille Day,

             New Year’s Eve. And she was. And he was. Gone.

Even though I wasn’t there, I still see my sisters

              finding our father’s first wife in the greenhouse

where he grew orchids — jacket pocket

— a gunshot to her head.

This is postpartum with suicide corsages,

             psychopsis, dendrobium, a landscape

of the dying, a three-year-old finding

             her mother, blood on the leaves

of the plants near her. My sister would later say,

It’s why I dislike the colors of Christmas,

             and yet, she. And yet, she. Grew up

like so many of us, near-heart, fingers

              in the roots of the dying, and mostly,

              somewhat, okay.

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