Umbilical – Caroline Stevens

Always the memory of what I left
on the ocean’s edge, always
the small private song I sang
under heavy clouds— my pockets

filled with Montevideo’s used bus tickets,
loose buttons, detritus that no longer serves
its purpose. Always too many afternoons
spent sighing, watching dust collect

from where I stand, and always the words
I speak so far removed from the thought
they’re born of, a clumsy tracing
of meaning. Across continents,

my mother reheats tea gone cold,
feeds the dog his daily blueberries—
meanwhile, I arrive late to readings, afraid
that being on time might mean

being seen. Instability is natural,
which is why earth is made of tectonic plates,
why an earthquake stops traffic and implores
all those people to pray. Always a reason

to stop my body from moving, to create the illusion
of stasis on this orbital axis, and always the fig tree
threatening to drop its fruit if I don’t start
moving again. Bathing is a ritual that connects us

to the bodies of water we’re missing.
Always the reminder of what is missed.

Caroline Stevens is a queer poet from Minneapolis. She is currently a second-year MFA student in poetry at Vanderbilt University, and serves as the editor in chief of the Nashville Review.

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