“Fear Is the Day That Isn’t Ordinary” by Linda Dove

Linda Dove


It is not the alarm clock and the coffee
and the work. It is not this morning,
when I read poems and had time
to shave the hair growing from the backs
of my knees. For a long time, I watched
a sparrow shoveling water out of the birdbath,
using his bill like the bucket of a bulldozer.
I ate apples I pulled from the tree.
This morning I watched the news. I saw
the kennels we’ve built to hold the others—
the children and the mothers and the fathers—
and I know that I can decide I don’t want to
travel, which is another way to lose.
I can afford to stay in one place. It is a luxury
to call a home home. To see your name
on a gravestone. To know the local words
for first light and water and help.
To look at the apple’s skin and not see
a map or a shroud. I know where I belong
at least some of the time. I know there is a jar
parked on a mountain high above the border
between Arizona and Mexico. It holds
notes—the voices of hikers and star-gazers
who followed a canyon wren off the trail.
It is full of the ordinary past—weather,
dates, names. Nothing special, nothing
like what those bodies hold, crossing
below it. Sometimes, on an ordinary day,
I think of the fact of it, hovering over the desert
like its own country, those dispersals
casually trusted to the earth, the way we offer
bits of ourselves to the air when we sing.

from Poets Respond
July 1, 2018


Linda Dove: “This poem addresses the separation of families and detention of refugees, asylum-seekers, and border-crossers from Central America to the U.S. In particular, it tries to address white privilege and unexamined citizenship in the face of what’s happening right now to these migrant communities—the way that American whiteness takes so much for granted about its own position in the history of this region. By the way, the story about the jar is true—I was hiking in Organ Pipe National Monument in 2000 and found a jar stuck between some rocks off the trail. I thought it was trash, but it turned out to be a time capsule someone had left in 1968 and others who had stumbled across it had added to over the years. I assume it’s still there, although it means something very different to me now than it did back then.” (web)

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