a primer on the Mitten

B1 gave me this poem, it hangs on my fridge as a constant reminder that I came from one place and am now in another, and  those two connect me because they are connected. I'd read this poem several times when I lived in OHCity and had wondered why I never saw the mosque off of I-75. It was in the rereading that I saw my error: the mosque is off of I-75 in Ohio, not off of I-75 in Michigan--I was looking for it in the wrong place. I finally saw the mosque on my first trip back to Sticks from a weekend in Michigan, somehow it felt as though I had achieved something in the finding. Does that even make sense?

Anyway, about to leave my old home for my new...look for me on I-75 S, I will be the one waving at the "corn corn corn mosque..."

"A Primer"
remember Michigan fondly as the place I go 
to be in Michigan. The right hand of America
waving from maps or the left
pressing into clay a mold to take home
from kindergarten to Mother. I lived in Michigan
forty-three years. The state bird
is a chained factory gate. The state flower
is Lake Superior, which sounds egotistical
though it is merely cold and deep as truth.
A Midwesterner can use the word “truth,”
can sincerely use the word “sincere.”
In truth the Midwest is not mid or west.
When I go back to Michigan I drive through Ohio.
There is off I-75 in Ohio a mosque, so life
goes corn corn corn mosque, I wave at Islam,
which we’re not getting along with
on account of the Towers as I pass.
Then Ohio goes corn corn corn
billboard, goodbye, Islam. You never forget
how to be from Michigan when you’re from Michigan.
It’s like riding a bike of ice and fly fishing.
The Upper Peninsula is a spare state
in case Michigan goes flat. I live now
in Virginia, which has no backup plan
but is named the same as my mother,
I live in my mother again, which is creepy
but so is what the skin under my chin is doing,
suddenly there’s a pouch like marsupials
are needed. The state joy is spring.
“Osiris, we beseech thee, rise and give us baseball”
is how we might sound were we Egyptian in April,
when February hasn’t ended. February
is thirteen months long in Michigan.
We are a people who by February
want to kill the sky for being so gray
and angry at us. “What did we do?”
is the state motto. There’s a day in May
when we’re all tumblers, gymnastics
is everywhere, and daffodils are asked
by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes
with a daffodil, you know where he’s from.
In this way I have given you a primer.
Let us all be from somewhere.
Let us tell each other everything we can.
--Bob Hicok

This poem appeared in the New Yorker.


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