GETTING THE BABY TO SLEEP
By Keetje Kuipers
Sometimes the baby can’t reconcile
the self with the self: too hungry
to eat, too tired to sleep. I know
the feeling. O, America, on those nights
when you are too beautiful for me
to continue to forgive you any longer—
for allowing us to kill each other
with your graceless bullets, or exile
our neighbors across your fictitious
border, or argue over the ownership
of each young girl’s body as if its freedom
is a lie she must stop telling herself—
I go out into your radiant embrace.
The baby and I drive through your streets,
over the bridge and its light-chipped
waters, under a moon so big, so full
of itself that though I know it belongs
to the world, it can’t be anything but
American. I hang my arm out the window
and skim the air like touching skin.
I breathe you in, and the baby sleeps.
Today’s poem was originally published in Blackbird and appears here today with permission from the poet.
Keetje Kuipers has been the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident, a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and the Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College. A recipient of the Pushcart Prize, her poems, essays, and fiction have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best American Poetry. Her first book of poetry, Beautiful in the Mouth, won the 2009 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and was published by BOA Editions. Her second collection, The Keys to the Jail, was published by BOA in 2014. Keetje is an Assistant Professor at Auburn University where she is Editor of Southern Humanities Review.
Editor’s Note: Today’s poem absolutely blows me away. It is too powerful to contain, and yet it is perfectly wrought as if chiseled from marble. It is metaphor and life, politic and country, as near as a closely-held infant and as far as the moon. It is the American affliction: needless gun violence, our backs turned and hearts hardened against immigrants and refugees, our deep seated fear of women’s sexuality, freedom, independence. “O, America, on those nights… you are too beautiful for me / to continue to forgive you any longer.” Absolutely stunning. Heartbreaking. An outcry in the form of a quiet, contemplative drive, cruising America in an attempt to get the baby to sleep.
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