Reader’s Digest, December 1969

Made in New York, "Quilt Top, Crazy pattern," silk, satin, velvet, and cotton, ca. 1885, Gift of Tracey Blumenreich Zabar, 1989, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Life in Hanoi.
Pumpkin Pie to Make Your Mother Jealous.
A Stranger in My Bedroom.
What To Do with a Jar of Pennies.

You will learn that a woman has stitched
ten thousand quilts since Pearl Harbor;
you will discover that Aunt Sue
likes to remember

her mother’s world, the fact
that hippopotami are born without tails,
that the biggest bowling alley
in the world is in Omaha,

that eggplant and Tupperware
are 1% carcinogenic. You will walk
from the bathroom toward a bowl of fruit
questioning your complicity

with Nixon, uncertain of the width
of your father’s favorite tie,
and whether Uncle Maurice truly knows
the danger of the water snake.

You will say I wasn’t born yet,
but know that in some happenstance
of place and time you were, that it was you
who placed that magazine on the toilet,

you who firebombed infants,
laughing, dreaming, imagining
Sue’s breasts on a patchwork quilt.
Nothing’s holy anywhere.

The nation’s history moves
like an awkward clock—the nation
pulls away from you, always, in the slim
hope of being another, a better

Reader’s Digest in a cleaner bathroom
near a stitch of crickets,
a pond replete with bass, bargains
at the Homeworth IGA

on Jiffy mix and Blue Lake green beans,
Wonder bread and mayonnaise.
You have a place to go
that’s not in any magazine.

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