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We arrive at a house
without a doorknob,
yet. We allow ourselves
inside, step among supports
and piled plywood.
When my father says watch
your head, he means
for nails. He means to watch
the placement of my
hands against fiberglass.
He says, suppose you
have 3 children. Suppose
you have a birthday.
Suppose a dog.


It is time to pull together
a nation. You have: a handful
of sticks, some brush, a match.
Lean these into a little hut,
kindling beneath. Gently puff
a flame into its rafters. If you
wish, permit its collapse.


A man in a hardhat poses
in front of a backhoe.
He has unearthed bodies,
probably Confederate.
A man in a suit says, the more
they dug, the more they found.
This site intentionally
obscured by the developer.
He says, we are all concerned.


How is your nation coming
along? You may need to
find a few additional hands,
someone off the street.


It is easy to recognize
the narrow box of a powder room,
the stretch of a master suite.
Before the pilings, we guess
which door will lead to a porch.
In one house, I suggest a larger
window for the foyer. My mother
says, you have an eye for this.


Weary of the nation, you
have been rooting around in
your garden again. It has smooth
plank edges and a tiny fence.
You uncover a necklace.
Do you keep digging?

– Kate Partridge is a student in the MFA program at George Mason University, where she teaches composition.  She is the Editor-in-Chief of So to Speak: a feminist journal of language and art. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in MAYDAY, Barely South, Weave Magazine, and Prime Number Magazine.

Listen to the Poem


Change O and Orange has no meaning
as a color, just range: palette, rainbow,
alphabet, sunrise to sunset without
fire.  Remove any before moment—

rainbow colors arranged on a palette—
and you get no picture, just blue flowered
fire removing all that came before
the match.  With a slow intentional burn

you get no picture, no blue flowery
hydrangeas, no paisley paper walls
matching slow intentions.  Burn
your past and you lose the range, memory

of hydrangea colored paisley walls.  Papers—
certificate, transcript, license, diploma—
you’re past memory.  Losses range
from black shoes to a grape dress. Take

a certificate, transcript, license, diploma
and drop their letters one by one:
lack shoes, rape dress.  Take
what’s broken and erase it

in your scalding bath.  Rewrite
the alphabet. Without sunrise, sunset?
Persimmons, California poppies—if you
change O then orange has no meaning.

– Melisa “Misha” Cahnmann-Taylor is Professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia. She is the winner of Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prizes and a Leeway Poetry Grant, and has co-authored two books, Teachers Act Up:Creating Multicultural Learning Communities Through Theatre and Arts-Based Research in Education.