Thaddeus Rutkowski: Three Poems
Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor
WHERE I’M FROM
I don’t think anyone outside of a ten-mile radius
has heard of where I’m from.
The one-street town lies downstream
from another one-street town.
I never made it more than a mile or two from my home.
For transportation, I used a bike, my feet, or skates.
Surrounded by nature, I had no choice but to appreciate it.
I was raised as white, but I’m not white.
My father saw no difference between races,
while my mother never forgot hers.
My goal was to learn to drive,
then climb into a car with a full tank of gas,
floor the accelerator, and blow out of there.
I have a feeling that something is missing,
because our child is no longer living with us.
I was focused on her, and on her only,
and now I’m not focused on her
unless she contacts me,
and she doesn’t contact me often.
I could contact her,
but I would need a good reason.
She and I aren’t in the habit of waving
at each other over distance, in cyberspace
just for the sake of waving.
I can see this emptiness as freedom,
a space in which to do what I like,
I don’t need to fill the space
with someone else to take care of,
someone like a pet: a dog or a cat.
I don’t need a pet to feed
and/or walk on a regular basis.
I don’t need to worry about the pet’s survival
when I go away from home for a while.
A pet wouldn’t make me happier,
though I would make a pet happier.
I’m asked if the fillings in my teeth
were done in a different country.
I wonder if foreign fillings look different,
if they are higher or lower on the tooth,
or have a different color.
Maybe what looks different is my face,
as if I’m from a different country
and had my earlier dental work done there.
“What country do you mean?”
I ask the dentist and his assistant
because I can’t quite figure out
what country they think I’m from.
Maybe they don’t know;
maybe all they know is,
I don’t look like they do.
I wait for their answer with my mouth open.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of seven books, including the poetry collection Tricks of Light (great weather for MEDIA, 2020). His novel Haywire won the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s Members’ Choice Award, and his creative memoir Guess and Check received the Electronic Literature bronze award for multicultural fiction. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, and many other publications. A graduate of Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University, Rutkowski received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts and was a resident writer at Yaddo, MacDowell, and other colonies. Traveling extensively, he has been a featured reader in Budapest, Dublin, London, Paris, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and was selected to read in the former compound of East German President Erich Honecker in Berlin. Rutkowski teaches at Medgar Evers College and the Writer’s Voice of the West Side YMCA and lives with his wife, Randi Hoffman, in Manhattan.
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