Letter to America by Jen Karetnick

One Poem

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Mango: An Inheritance with a High Error Rate

The slick gush of you. The stain and stick
of you. How you fill cheeks like the residue
of a tongue bitten nearly in two. The way
you linger in the air with the fleetest of flies
no one can catch except with leftover wine
rotting in wide-mouthed glasses along with
the lead points of bodies I collect like coins

until the liquid chokes with them. This is about
how I’ve loved you for so long I’ve grown weary
of you, fragrant wild grenades percussing through
the night onto the shards of the pool deck,
pinging off drainpipes and catching in gutters,
splattering the slats of the solar panels with
such force that I sleep dreaming of ancestral dangers.

And all the abundance you bring, the family members
who clamor for you and bring back breads and chutneys
and salsas made too saccharine with you, dishes to spoil
in the back of the refrigerator. And your pits that root
themselves in oolite and silt from squirrel-gnawed fruit,
thrusting up seedlings when no one is looking, that might
or might not bear if allowed to grow, but will be

considered new varieties if they do, those genes
throwbacks to every Asian, Latin, and Caribbean
tree that contributed to their lineages. And those who will
name you, guess again, rename you. And the food
pantries that won’t take you even though you are fresh,
unprocessed, because this is no longer how America
embraces anything: in their colorful, foreign-born skins.




Jen KaretnickJen Karetnick is the author of five full-length poetry collections, including Hunger Until It’s Pain (Salmon Poetry, forthcoming spring 2023), The Burning Where Breath Used to Be (David Robert Books, forthcoming August 2020), and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016), finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of Virginia Book Prize. She is also the author of five poetry chapbooks, including The Crossing Over (March 2019), winner of the 2018 Split Rock Review Chapbook Competition. Co-founder and managing editor of SWWIM Every Day, Jen is currently a Deering Estate Artist-in-Residence. Find her at

Header photo by Yaruniv Studio, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Jen Karetnick by Zoe Cross. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.