“The Uncertaintest Word” by Christine Poreba

Christine Poreba


As soon as my son has taken the bite
he’s determined is last, he rubs
false dust from his hands—

my signal—“All done?” I ask,
though really he’s only almost done—
still chewing, but finished with sitting.

Which means that I am too. And so
I leave my cup of coffee, two sips
from being gone, something to hope

to go back for. All gone my son says
for bowls that are only half empty.
It’s ethereal: the sky looks almost

like rain. The plane’s status says
In flight, so my parents are still up
beside the clouds, but almost here.

I almost didn’t go to the art opening
where I met my husband, or so the story
goes. Because there’s a kind of thrill

to loss that might have been but wasn’t.
Engine of imagined ruin. In a movie,
the man who almost went on a plane

that crashed is the hero for whom
some other path awaits. And what
comes to those who never landed

in this world, my niece or nephew
whose heart stopped beating before birth?
And of those in the boats that arrived

to Ellis Island and were told they were
over-quota, were sent back across the ocean.
Almost America. On a sunless day near water,

it’s almost easier to see the past,
everyone behind you, spaces on
the horizon to fill. There’s my grandmother

at sixteen on a boat from Poland.
That old photograph of her pushing
my father in a baby swing has the same

rooftops behind as my baby picture
and now my son’s. History is almost
new again. It shimmers on the water.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016

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Christine Poreba: “This poem was one of those exciting ones that presented itself nearly whole—at least in skeletal form—in its first freewrite. I was on my annual pilgrimage to Poet’s House in New York City, and wrote in my journal, first, that ‘I had been too long away from reading poetry,’ and then—after several pages of notes on the poems I had read—that I was ‘almost tired from reading poetry. Almost ready. Almost done … Almost implies closer than near by itself, but almost close means far.’ Thankfully, none of those lines made it into the poem, but they did offer me an entrance into the poem, which is one of my favorite moments in the process of writing poetry.” (website)

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