Three poems by Carrie Etter

Three poems from Imagined Sons
A Birthmother’s Catechism (September 11, 1986)

What is the anniversary of loss?

A national day of mourning

Really now, what is the anniversary of loss?

My mother and I watch TV well past her usual bedtime

What is the anniversary of loss?

Where the swan’s nest had been, widely scattered branches and some crumpled beer cans

What is the anniversary of loss?

Sometimes the melancholy arrives before the remembering

What is the anniversary of loss?

Some believe it is impossible to spend too much on the memorial

What is the anniversary of loss?

When I say sometimes the melancholy comes first, I know the body has its own memory

What is the anniversary of loss?

The wishbone snapped, and I clung to the smaller piece
(first published in The Times Literary Supplement)
Imagined Sons 6: Introducing Myself As His
(The First Supermarket Dream)

His hand strikes my cheek, and I shudder and sting. His eyes tear and close, his mouth sucks in his lips. The okra and the mangoes are watching; the stock boy and the trio of cheerleaders consider plots. Reflexively I reach toward him, but what reflex is this, so long unused? “My mother is at home,” he stammers as he recoils. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry,” I whisper to the yams. “Yes, your mother is at home.”
(first published in PN Review)
Imagined Sons 7: The Big Issue


As I climb the steps to Hungerford Bridge, I feel in my pocket for change—I’ll be asked to buy The Big Issue before I reach the other side.

A blind man could discriminate between the Londoners and the tourists: the former hurry on as the latter loiter and stare. I weave my way at a leisurely pace.

I see a scruffy boy of a man selling and approach him. “Two-fifty, isn’t it?” I say, and he nods while extending a hand for my coins.

“Thank you, ma’am,” he says, and I’m surprised to hear a familiar accent.

I tilt my head, trying to see around his long fringe, to see his eyes. “You’re American, too,” I say, shoving the magazine in my bag. “Where are you from?”
Carrie Etter’s third collection, Imagined Sons, is published by Seren this month and can be purchased from directly from the publisher. You can learn more about Carrie Etter and her work on her blog.