The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Donna Spruijt-Metz

Map of May--July 1956: Living Room with Death Notification


Some things just stay with you, even as they don’t.

Or they stay with you as they change within you.

I spent an afternoon drawing as best as I can a map

of the days of my father’s death. What you see

in the top left-hand corner is a sort of homunculus home

distorted by where the blood rushes fastest,

where the wreckage is most unmanageable.

There, the crazy-quilt carpet—green, blood red, gray.

There’s me at six years old, on the carpet that I lived with

so deeply, hours spent alone there, every game built up

around the shapes, the uneven squares of color,

the lines that one could or could not step on,

the punishments I made up for myself, creating

a kind of order. I may never be able to remember

the carpet’s pattern, exactly, but I still dream it

most nights. There in the corner is the pretty pinewood

TV console, the green Bakelite phone. I haven’t drawn

the ringing, I can’t draw the line of light that seemed

to stretch, peyote style, from my umbilicus to the phone,

to the sound of it ringing. To the sound of it being

picked up. There, floating off to the left, my mother’s

bedroom, where you cannot see the sounds she made

because I can’t draw them. At the time I couldn’t

identify them. The wail, the sounds of a wounded animal 

and then all the things being hurled, breaking.




DONNA SPRUIJT-METZ is a poet, translator, and Professor of Psychology and Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Her first career was as a professional flutist. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in venues such as Occulum, Naugatuck River Review, Juked and Poetry Northwest. Her chapbook, Slippery Surfaces, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2019.


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