To give birth to me, my mother
had to be ferried from the small island
to the tall island centered at three rivers.
When I stand on solid earth, to this day
I feel its flowing. My bones now row
in the ocean of sky. This
and the purblind speech of breath
was all I was born knowing.
Everything else, the lurch of heart’s boat
capsizing in cold, the belief
that the meticulous, worn loveliness
of the old could be kept going safe
forever—these illusions sank
long ago, the small home of my mother.
Mary Elizabeth Birnbaum was born, raised, and educated in New York City. Her work has appeared in Lake Effect, J Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, Soundings East, Barrow
Street, and other literary journals. Mary’s translation of the Haitian poet Felix Moriseau-Leroy has been published in And There Will Be Singing, An Anthology of International
Writing by the Massachusetts Review, 2019. She has received two nominations for a Pushcart Prize.