Go Back to Your Own Country
Let me tell you about countries: nobody has their own
and where we come from moves. Our mothers’ wombs
aren’t where we left them. Continents calve. Jerusalem
holds a tray full of glasses which a scrum of men take
and put back, take and put back, unworried for the weight
she must shift. Let me tell you: some of the countries
aren’t where we left them. Someone pulls a string and six
tumble from Yugoslavia’s pocket. Someone halves
Sudan like a branch over their knee. Someone crumbles
a bailey between Berlin and Germany is one place
again. Only Adam had his own country, and he could not
go back. A country is land that’s learned to disown.
This poem has been reproduced with the poet’s permission. It first appeared in Contemporary Verse 2.
If a poem has love I will call it lovely. If a poem rings powerfully true I will call it stunning. This is a lovely, stunning poem which begins so well with a request to come alongside and explain. “Let me tell you” – that is such a good way to begin a poem, and such a good way to start to complicate a racist and nationalistic mindset with the thought that wombs and countries are never where we left them.
Jane Zwart teaches literature and writing at Calvin University and co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing.