National Poetry Month Day 3: Maya Jewell Zeller


Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of Rust Fish and Yesterday, the Bees. She teaches creative writing at Central Washington University, edits poetry for Scablands Books, and edits fiction for Crab Creek Review. Maya lives in the Inland Northwest with her partner and two children. Follow her on Twitter @MayaJZeller and visit her website for more information.



You’re the pines gone white with frost
just past Fishtrap,

you’re the chia seeds
in my cranberry sauce.

I’m getting in my car again
and whooshing through the channeled scablands,

you’re the road: a long gray mustache
edged in ice. You’re the music

I put on to forget you, the orange
melody coming up hot in my blood

like the sun pouring over basalt
and warming the dark bark of trees,

you’re the prehistoric gorge carved
into stone, you’re the clover honey

in my mint tea. I’m the mint
tea: too hot for your tongue. I’m the woman

you don’t let yourself think of/ the girl
you can’t forget. You’re the wind

turbines turning the molecules of me,
I’m electrons spinning; I’m the fields full

of hay, you’re the blade that cut
me. You’re the semi trucks

whose mud flaps say Freightline
or Peterbilt. The music rolls

across my plains like your voice, for which
I have hungered so fully, the dark animal of it

telling me things I hadn’t
imagined, or hadn’t allowed myself

to imagine, something the shape of a promise
on the outskirts of Kittitas County,

where the mountains come now
into view and the exit signs

sport the head of a wild cat,
roaring—what sort of sound

does it make when its heart has been broken?
I’m the low, scratchy sob

of a middle-aged professor, wishing
she could think of something you aren’t:

another country, somewhere you’ve never been.
Where haven’t you been, America?

Did you know there are creatures
who live hundreds of miles

down in the ocean, dangling
lights in front of their faces,

bodies transparent, like the sea cucumber
who eats detritus or the oil worm

feeding on chemicals or the amber
crab with furry claws? How strange

and lovely, these animals you’ll never
see, who will never see you, who thrive

in their distance and as soon as divers
travel deep enough to study them

in their dangerous vessels, float away
forgetting us. What wouldn’t I give

to forget you, to flap my ear-like fins
and swim away? Here you are, though,

when I pull off onto Canyon Road:
you’re the fly-fishing shop, the gas station,

the blue sky deep as your oceanic eyes
of fathomless questions. You’re making coffee

and saying how little our bodies know,
how far they are from us, while mine hums

and hums its way closer to the memory of your oblivious
and flannel-clad chest. Oh, America. I am thinking of you

and how you tasted, like the rust-sweet
rainwater in a rhododendron, and how

you made so many decisions, how you bring
your convenient mug of steam and pressed caffeine

to those lips, but I’m not bitter
or anything, over you, you and your words

and your words and your guitar and your stupid
little notebook and your maps and your hands

and your ridiculous songs and your socks all over
my guest room and you’re the sage brush, rolling,

and you’re the rolling landscapes of promises
you never meant to make in the first place.

All this time, I was calling you America.
America, oh America. Rolling you around my mouth

like a cough drop, as if you were the one.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →