Letter to America by Jeremy Voigt

One Poem

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Reasons I don’t care what white supremacists think

Gun oil smells like burnt raspberries.
Or at least that’s how I imagine it.
My father oiled his rifles in the basement
only a few times in my memory,
the dark metallic parts laid out in an order
his mind could maintain, the stained rag—
but I don’t, if I’m honest, recall what
it smelled like. Redolence—that’s the word
springing forth, but of what? That’s memory’s
mean trick, the decay.

                                             On good days I imagine
forgetting is a nurse log sustaining new growth.
On bad days, the new trees cannot take root
in a barren forest. I was made fun of online once
by a white supremacist for writing “machine
gun.” My lack of make and model made my
point about murder irrelevant in his mind.

But if he read a poem, and I said, “that’s a spondee”
I would be gleeful to share, to point out that thunk, thunk
of syllable as it lands on a straight, dark line
laid out on white, in an order a mind can maintain,
staining that sound, or the image it sculpts into a body,
or nursing one along on days

                                                         when everything seems to fade.

And it is just that, that lack of joy—the forgetting
that all knowing is temporary, a redolence of loss
is all that is real. And the looking closer, reminding,
finding the words for the diverse and dappled world
is the ultimate splendor and connection and such
things dulled is a mind that labels without looking
and one that stopped trying, that cannot smell
the burnt raspberries, imagined as they are.




Jeremy VoigtJeremy Voigt’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, Gulf Coast, Post Road, Willow Springs, BPJ, and other magazines. He lives by a large lake in western Washington.    

Read three poems by Jeremy Voigt originally published in

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