Go Back to the Place You Were Born

Sometimes teachers strike gold: for a whole week I have the local(ish) poet Tim McNulty hanging out and teaching my Seniors poetry.


He shared his latest book of poems, Ascendance, and mentioned the photograph on the front. A salmon jumps up Kettle Falls, now damned by the Grand Coulee. Tim went on to talk about the beauty of salmon who “go back to the place they were born.” And he mentioned that line perhaps twice more. It resonated with me.

We were supposed to write about–gawd, I dunno even know what–that’s how fiercely this line sat with me–this idea that where ever I birthed my child, (s)he might have this faint memory of it, this whisper of the room and the light and the soft way N spoke in my ear. That somewhere deep inside his marrow, like a salmon, if instructed, he could “go back to the place he was born.”I haven’t written poetry in eons, and now I can’t quite remember why.

Go Back to the Place You Were Born

Go back to the place you were born
up the back stairs on 1st Street
in the old converted house
whose trillium walls wear
first wails
of new life
where tepid water
fills deep tubs
and a damask duvet covers
a bed on which women’ve labored.

There, on the hardwood planks,
you will find where I curled my toes
and leaked fluids
where your Father whispered in my ears
and massaged the place between my thumb and forefinger.

Go back to that place
where our blue eyes first locked
where time stood still
and our hearts beat
for the first time
because of each other.