“America, I Want” by Bayleigh Cardinal

Bayleigh Cardinal


to tell you a secret
as the sun buries itself
in our backs, us sitting like driftwood
at the horizon of a lake we
don’t know the name of.
I want to say it
as boats pass, worn by the season,
muttering into the wind,
thumping like hearts
over choppy water.
I’d name mine for you.
My boat. Ephemera.
I’d paint it your favourite shade
of blue. When docked, I’d sing
for you. Like I used to
with my sisters when they felt like sisters.
I sang when I was tired.
I sang as my skin, sun-beaten,
peeled away. I want to say
it was for the best, that I stopped,
that silence is song of its own, blown
open and rotting. I want to say
I spend days with my sisters,
that we still lay across an infinity
of lawn, dawn
hanging like a pink wire over
the morning, which to us meant
the rest of our lives. I want alive
to mean what it did before. I want
to whisper in your ear like a door
I want to open. I want to sing
more than anything
into something endless
like sky or blue, I want to
stop telling you about the rape.
It’s been four years.
I want years to mean eternities,
wars to mean past, I want to stop
seeing this tide-swallowed shore
as my body, as the time of year,
the weather we’re in. But
it’s hard. I used to love
salt on my skin, windows
rolled down, the radio of you,
the surf of you,
the forever hull of you.
I want to tell you,
I want to begin, that’s it.
The song of a used engine, awake
but unable to forgive.

from Poets Respond
June 28, 2022


Bayleigh Cardinal: “This poem came rapidly in response to the upending of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court. I am sad. I miss when I loved my home country, and I am devastated for all the voices being lost in the swell of political agenda.” (web)

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