Once We Were | Martha Collins

once we were immigrants
given to thought we were
given the right to be
taking what wasn’t our
making what wasn’t
who wasn’t us were

__

take take take
off your shoes your taken
from shoes your take
down shoes your
shoes on the table
your take—

__

table the con-
versation the talk the
top of the table steeple
sky for just a minute be
quiet listen: the shifting
crumbs on the table

__

shiftless we said the
shifty eyes gave them
away we didn’t see
the less than dress
a shuffle slip as in
under another shaft

__

shaft to have to hold
an arrow handle for hammer
column to build a shaft
of light our enlightened
missile we own the whole
mine we own the shaft

__

mine! we could not stop
the baby mine! we would
not stop ourselves mine
it drill it strip it right
down to hear us making
taking over taken out

__

stop for a listen for
once we were may be our
getting forgotten a shifting
to taken mistaken to get
set for the coming all
hands on the table

 

 

Martha Collins’s eighth book of poems, Admit One: An American Scrapbook, will be published by Pittsburgh in early 2016.  Collins is also the author of seven earlier books of poetry, most recently Day Unto DayWhite Papers, and Blue Front, and co-translator of four collections of Vietnamese poetry. She is editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and an editor for the Oberlin College Press.

issue: Current
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