By Susan Hahn Susan Hahn

        After the Fourth of July

On this night of the mid-   
summer festival of fire,   
where liquid explosives   
look like the arch and ache   
of the willow tree   

so near your grave, on this   
night of the awaiting mid-   
wife who lulled you in-   
to this world, the light   
all violet because the Earth and stars   
inclined toward each other,   
she also sleeps, she who was   
your first deliverer, guiding you out   

of your mother—her bluing   
skin no small sign of the future   
cyanosis of her spirit for no   
small journey was it to this   
country to bring you to birth   
in this torch   

song heat and an anthem of a free
nation's conception of combustions:   
rosins, petroleum, tallow, arsenic   
and worse, as you, too, fell from the sky   

of her body with me   
a microscopic egg inside—   
half the composition   
that made up my own   
toss and tumble to this crash   
of ground I sit over and bless   
while you lie under, under   
the willow, under this world   
that no midwife   
nor wavelength can under-   
standably reach. So I stand   

in this over-   
determined fire forced out   
like bullets upon a target—   
the pulled trigger releasing   
the hammer that strikes   
the impacted mixture—   
hailstorm and hymn   

of memories. And the outstretched womb   
involutes and the abdominal wall tightens   
and inside all abandoned encasements   
the night over the day darkens.

Source: Poetry (July 2000).


This poem originally appeared in the July 2000 issue of Poetry magazine

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July 2000
 Susan  Hahn


Poet, editor, playwright, and novelist Susan Firestone Hahn was born and raised in and around Chicago. She earned a BA and MA in psychology from Northwestern University and trained as an art therapist at the Gestalt Institute of Chicago before turning her attention to poetry. Hahn has published numerous poetry collections, including Harriet Rubin’s Mother’s Wooden Hand (1991); Incontinence (1993), winner of the Society of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Sorrow & Grieving, Living, Birth & Birthdays, Nature, The Body

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Syllabic

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