Running Away From Home

Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Some people from Washington State are great poetasters,
Inbibers of anything, so long as it makes us sick
Enough to forget our sickness, and carry on

-Carolyn Kizer from Carry Out: Hostess Winkies and Wild Duck

       Most people from Seattle are mutated and grey
Nevermind                                                             the size
of Western States                                      the distance
from Hanford                                     the actual gauge
of rain

No one is from Seattle
even Kurt Cobain
grew up in an Aberdeen
without thistles or a stone
lumber mills and snowy owls
where they won’t even name a bridge for him

Some people from San Francisco
are jugglers on heroin

their slender bones vibrate under thinner
skin and palm
leaves and sun

in blue—they never wake
before fog dissipates
as their hearts will one day, and some
already have

held knife against your neck—just cold
enough to mug you
and Golden Gate wants blood, and the Bay
Bridge wants your carpool

Some people from Tokyo
don’t meet their lovers at Hachiko

Mountain Hags and CyberGoths
love that loyal dog

and only have their Sapporo
and Asahi friends
to visit their graves; sleeves
swing chrysanthemum & crane under umbrellas

raised as another English
speaking camera crew records
the crossing under Starbucks
to represent their world

Some people from New York
are more parochial than that;
all the women they need to rape
live between the Hudson and the East,
and all the women they want to drug
take the train

                          Some people from Zhengzhou
                          will never get the passport
                          that would let them visit Beijing,
                          and they still wear 2008 rings
                          grubby with mango juice

Some people from Belfast
care about flags; others care
about languages
and some just want to stretch
in Botanic Gardens grass
when the sun dares show its name

Some people from Uliga
are not from Majuro at all
but lived on other corals
until it was time to test the bomb,
and some of them went back
until the poisons drove them off again—
the arrowroot had changed color—
and sometimes their children die
of mutations that don’t fly,
change color or cause
anything but misery

                                    Some people are from nowhere
                                    if the butterfly’s wings
                                     touch & change everything

then they are dragonflies,
buzzing each world
landing, lightest

of more than why they moved

Elizabeth Kate Switaj is a Liberal Arts Instructor at the College of the Marshall Islands and a Contributing Editor to Poets’ Quarterly. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Queen’s University Belfast and an M.F.A. in Poetics and Creative Writing from New College of California. Her first collection of poetry, Magdalene & the Mermaids, was published in 2009 by Paper Kite Press. Recent poems have appeared in Foliate Oak and Coldnoon. For more information visit http://www.elizabethkateswitaj.net.