Pro Patria

by Marilyn McCabe

Someone says “my country”
and I see a riverbed and many brooks.
I hear brakes and bells, see a pigeon
shot from the sky, small cloud falling.
I see a bridge. God, what a beautiful bridge.
And under the bridge, well, what is found
under bridges: discards, playing cards.
On the river’s edge the tales of floods,
a careful trim of cedars deer-nipped
from on the frozen river.
I taste woodsmoke, taste cabbage.
Find a turtle smashed like an egg.

Someone says “my people”
and I see bees among the dandelions.
Is there nowhere we have not been?
Even here at the end of the world
is a burnt ring from an ancient fire.
Not far away, scatter of skeleton,
almost casual but for the bashed skull.
It used to be the arrival gate
was packed with people waiting.
They had flowers, balloons, a sign
saying Welcome Home Augie.
I see a beach of bodies. See ear lobes,
I smell feet, hear small coughs. Eh. Eh.

You sing your anthem
and I hear a hundred silences
and the rocking lullabye.
Hear fricative and plosive.
Hear the nervous crack of knuckles,
inadvertent sighs, a thousand of those
and the hushed lick of tongue to lips,
and the tick of lips opening,
quick intake of breath.

You say “my flag”
and I see the loose weave of gauze
placed over a wound.
See the worm circling
tightly a woman’s body.
The backs of girls and women
over looms, the deafening clatter.
See a widow’s hump.
Warp and weft of chessboard.
Set up the kings. Knock them down.

MARILYN MCCABE’S work has garnered an Orlando Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation, the Hilary Tham Capital Collection contest award from The Word Works resulting in publication of the poetry collection Perpetual Motion, two artist grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, and Grayson Books’s chapbook prize for the hybrid collection Being Many Seeds. Her poems and videopoetry have been published in a variety of print and online literary magazines. She blogs about writing and reading at

Photo: “US Flag” by jnn1776

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