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13: Amanda Gunn

Queer Poem-a-Day is a program from the Adult Services Department at the Library and may include adult language.


by Amanda Gunn

Erykah says melodies prayers babies
A woman who isn’t asked says nothing
A woman who isn’t a mother fields questions
A woman who isn’t a mother owns a field
My mother holds my knee
My mother’s left hand is a wooden shield
My mother tells her cousin when she’s ready
A woman who waits—
Erykah says we give birth to different things
A woman who knows the difference says poems
A mother slices a pepper like a heart
A mother says like this
My mother holds a braid holds the milk holds a chrysalis
One mother says you dodged a bullet
A woman who waits waits for a sound in her heart
A doctor says what saves you
What saves my life will burst a baby’s heart
A doctor says choose
My mother’s hand in the car hits my heart
A mother’s grief arrives already swaddled
A mother with ashes for children says istenem
The woman who birthed my mother says maybe
A woman who’s no longer asked says nothing?
Erykah says birth things
A woman who makes a choice works a field
My mother taught my hands to crimp the pastry
I taught my mother’s hands to lattice pastry
The woman who birthed my mother says prayers
My mother holds a needle holds a feather holds a door
When a doctor says choose a death is meted
A poem says the same each time you meet it
A woman who doesn’t choose crosses a field

Copyright © 2023 by Amanda Gunn. This poem was originally published in her book, Things I Didn’t Do With This Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2023).

About the Author

Amanda GunnAmanda Gunn is a poet, teacher, and doctoral candidate in English at Harvard where she studies poetry, ephemerality, and Black pleasure. Raised in Connecticut, she worked as a medical copyeditor for thirteen years before earning a master of fine arts degree in poetry from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. She is a 2021-23 Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford, the inaugural winner of the Auburn Witness Poetry Prize honoring Jack Adam York, the recipient of a writing fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and the recipient of a Pushcart Prize.

Queer Poem a Day graphic

Queer Poem a Day: Lineage Edition

Queer Poem-a-Day is directed by poet and teacher Lisa Hiton and Dylan Zavagno, Adult Services Coordinator at the Deerfield Public Library. Music for this third year of our series is the AIDS Ward Scherzo by Robert Savage, performed by pianist Daniel Baer. Queer Poem-a-Day is supported by generous donations from the Friends of the Deerfield Public Library and the Deerfield Fine Arts Commission.

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