Spring 2010 • Vol. XXXII No. 2 PoetryApril 1, 2010 |

Without a Claim

Raised like a houseplant on a windowsill looking out on other windowsills of a treeless block, I couldn't take it in when told I owned this land with oaks and maples scattered like crowds on Sundays, and an undergroundstrung not with pipes but snaky roots that writhed when my husband sank a rhododendron, now flaunting pinks high as an attic window. This land we call our place was never ours. If it belonged to anyone, it was the Montauk chief who traded it for mirrors, knowing it wasn't his. Not the sailors who brought the blacksmith iron, nor the farmers who dried salt hay, nor even the later locals, whale hunters, the harpooner from Sumatra, the cook from Borneo, who like my ancestors, wandered from town to port without a claim, their names inside me though not in the registries. No more than geese in flight, shadowing the lawn, cries piercing wind, do we possess these fields, given the title, never the dominion. But here we are in April, watching earth r

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Grace Schulman’s seventh collection of poems, Without a Claim, was published in September 2013 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Mariner Booka). She is Distinguished Professor, Baruch College, CUNY.

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