The Selvage

By Linda Gregerson b. 1950 Linda Gregerson Read the Q & A

So door to door among the shotgun
shacks in Cullowhee and Waynesville in
our cleanest shirts and ma’am
and excuse me were all but second

nature now and this one woman comes
to the door she must have weighed
three hundred pounds Would you be
willing to tell us who you plan to vote

for we say and she turns around with
Everett who’re we voting for? The
black guy says Everett. The black guy
she says except that wasn’t the language

they used they used the word
we’ve all agreed to banish from even our
innermost thoughts, which is when
I knew he was going to win.


At which point the speaker discovers,
as if the lesson were new,
she has told the story at her own expense.
Amazing, said my sister’s chairman’s

second wife, to think what you’ve
amounted to considering where you’re from,
which she imagined was a compliment.
One country, friends. Where when

we have to go there, as, depend
upon it, fat or thin, regenerate
or blinkered-to-the-end, we shall,
they have to take us in. I saw


a riverful of geese as I drove home across
our one-lane bridge. Four hundred of them
easily, close-massed against the current and
the bitter wind (some settled on the ice) and just

the few at a time who’d loosen rank to
gather again downstream. As if
to paraphrase. The fabric
every minute bound

by just that pulling-out that holds
the raveling together. You were driving
all this time? said Steven. Counting
geese? (The snow falling into the river.)

No. (The river about
to give itself over to ice.) I’d stopped.
Their wingspans, had they not
been taking shelter here, as wide as we are tall.

Source: Poetry (December 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2010
 Linda  Gregerson


Linda Gregerson is the author of several collections of poetry and literary criticism. A Renaissance scholar, a classically trained actor, and a devotee of the sciences, Gregerson produces lyrical poems informed by her expansive reading that are inquisitive, unflinching, and tender. Tracing the connections she finds between science and poetry, Gregerson says, “I think there are rhythms of thought, fragile propositions about the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Class

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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