Exile

By Margot Kahn

On Saturday I trolled for places back home.
Home as in the place I was raised,
not that elusive ancestor thing, the soul or—

just the place where my mother set plates
of flank steak in front of me, or left me
with a cardboard box, the frozen trays.

When everything’s up in flames,
I yearn for a yard I know the edge of—
for lightning bugs trapped in a punched-lid jar;

the lip of the brick fireplace where my father sang
his Navy songs, and the kitchen where my mother baked
blackberry pie that bled out across the floor;

the days I drove myself to school and picked myself up,
hotwired the minivan, got felt-up, and learned about loneliness
from a phone attached to the wall;

the place my parents were the first to be born to,
the place I had the privilege of being bored;
the place I had the privilege of leaving.

Here, from my kitchen window, the hills are first
to disappear. Then goes the fence, the garden,
the rutted gravel drive. My lungs hurt just watching it,

reading in sans serif that friends had minutes to flee.
I see the hill behind their house awash in light, ablaze—
a transcendental image for an Instagram age.

She posts it as they’re rushing away to the country
of the displaced—a land I know the scent of,
a language I, too, can speak.


Margot Kahn is the author of the biography Horses That Buck, winner of the High Plains Book Award, and a chapbook, A Quiet Day with the West on Fire, finalist for the Floating Bridge Press chapbook award. She is co-editor of two anthologies: This Is the Place, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, and Wanting (forthcoming, Catapult 2023). Her poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, New England Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.

Originally appeared in NOR 29

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