Mother Countries

to love the complicated
place and the complications

of its people:
                    my angel

on the riverbank
is the braid of family

& America,
                    but it isn’t
          my mother is no country

and this country is no mother:
I am son of one

citizen of the other


she is dead
but I am still M

her son       at the end
of her being

alive I
became her

caretaker: since
she’s dead I am

no longer that
America I’ll

die before
you and the mask

of my citizenship
will dissolve

like salt
in hot water


She caught
a dangerous lyric
in my high school stereo::

                              What did he say? I don’t want you
                             listening to that stuff.

She picked up
The Communist Manifesto
from my bed:

                             Why are you reading this?

                            “Ben lent it to me.”

                            Is he the one who picked you up in a dress?


Her voicemail begins,
Call me when you get this.

Her hands dealt compulsive
solitaire, watching
the Weather Channel.

We urged her,

She shook her head,
                   Forget it.


As she died for a week

in September, I wept
less and less.

After holding

her pulseless wrist
for ten minutes,

her body

wasn’t her

It never was.

My body was once her
body, but hers was never

mine, and then we severed

on a day we
celebrated. We could only own

so much past.

The Swimming Lesson

The story goes that my mother was twelve and the instructor just pushed her
into the lake, saying, Swim. Her growing body tangled in brush, weeds, her
future, branches, bitterness, betrayal, race, roots, and fantasy, and someone dove in
to save her.

She never learned to swim, readily admitted her fear of water, and blamed that
instructor as long as she lived. She’d go into the ocean or a lake up to her knees, a
pool up to her shoulders, feet always touching the submerged ground, head above
water. Her face and hair were to remain dry.

As she died, she didn’t know where she wanted to rest. It was so hard to just be—
wouldn’t just-being eternally with non-being be harder? She didn’t want to rest
beside her parents and stepmother, didn’t want to be buried at all, said she’d never
really wanted the fire, but now felt it her best option.

I listed places to be scattered, and she shook her head at every one. She was just

I told her she could stay with me, and she does, but today I imagined finding a lake,
how I could strip down and then scatter her ashes—with its bits of bone and teeth—
and then jump in as it swirled, hopefully glittering in the sunlight, the unwanted fire
cooled at last, and lie on my back, look at the sky, reach behind my head to pull the
water past my hip, finally swimming with my mother.

Andy Fogle is the author of Across from Now and seven chapbooks of poetry, including Arc & Seam: Poems of Farouk Goweda, co-translated with Walid AbdallahHe’s from Virginia Beach, spent years in the DC area, and now lives with his family in upstate NY, teaching high school.