Rebecca McClanahan Click to

Rebecca McClanahan has published ten books, most recently The Tribal Knot (a multigenerational memoir) and a revised edition of Word Painting: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively.  A recipient of the Wood Prize from Poetry, a Pushcart Prize and the Glasgow Award from Shenandoah for her suite of essays The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings, McClanahan teaches in the MFA programs of Queens University and Rainier Writing Workshop.

Pushing the envelope that is his mother
the kangaroo joey rides
his first heartbeats. As does the wombat, wrapped

in darkness, and the cuscus, the sugar glider,
flying possum, dasyure. Wise nature,
to stitch onto even the smallest pouched-mouse

a sleeve in which to hide. My grandmother,
mother of eleven with little to claim
her own, loved pockets so deeply

she fastened them to every apron,
and no hands but hers ever ventured inside.
Pockets! What would we be without you.

Where would the diner waitress tuck
her filled bills, extra straws, the gnawed pencil
adding it all up. And in the ancient

land that was my childhood
and maybe yours, where else to secure
the tackle and trim of the nerds and geeks—

protractors, slide rules, pens and more pens
leaking out answers I was not yet
ready to hear, above the racking clack

of my uncles’ billiards, the break
and spread then the padded gulp of the pocket
taking it all in. Another child,

my husband’s mother, lined her pockets
with stones on her way to school
so her birdlike bones would register sufficiently

on the Great Depression’s official scales.
Pocket: keeper of secrets,
hidden lining. Something to empty

at day’s end. Encoder, ender
of marriages. Someone discovers a phone number,
receipt, a lipstick-smudged handkerchief,

the human stain. Hide: skin
of an animal, tacked to a wall. Go ahead,
spill it out
, nods the man with the diploma

nailed above his desk, proferring
a tissue for your tears. Don’t take it,
why should you, why surrender the clenched purse

of your history: the nights you’ve hoarded,
your unspoken prayers, the liturgy
of keys riding the blue-jeaned pocket of a lover,

wearing down year by year
a pocket-sized bald spot on his thigh
for your eyes only, here beside the nightstand

where he spills his keys, matches, wadded
bills, loose change. All day you will wear his scent
in your hair, your closed lips sealing

the contract. Even the smallest nation requires
pockets of resistance, hidden heartbeat,
muted drum. If you never hide,

who will come seeking? Beneath the earth,
in hollows too deep to mine,
alluvial gold. Untapped vein, secret ore.


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