Before Hudson was Your Name · Daniel Pizappi

The night you were born
I woke on a vinyl armchair
from fitful dreams of an hour’s sleep
and, as if those dreams had never
ended, I saw your mother open
like a lotus and the wet brown curl
of your hair. A day had come
and gone, waiting, and in a moment
you were rushing to meet us.

I held your mother, shoulder and thigh,
and together we pressed into
each spasm of your birth, until you hung
limply from her body and she
lifted you to her chest. You
lay so shriveled and blue
that I nearly stopped breathing —
but you whimpered and I exhaled,
cut the cord that had fed you,
and they swept you away to be
measured, to be wrapped.

If I could, I’d wrap my memories in
butcher’s paper and give them to
you, so your feet would know
what it was to walk beside me.
I’d hold you there, in that quiet knowing,
and save you from my tired mistakes.

You were so quiet, that first afternoon
when we strapped you into the back seat.
Again and again, my eyes sought you
in the mirror, the way they used to when
your mother drove her car behind mine,
to calm a fear that, suddenly, she’d disappear.
I drove south, tracing the river,
then west, onto the bridge and over
the open water. Suddenly, in the noise
and silence of car wheels on suspended
concrete, you screamed with all
the joy and terror of being alive.

Your mother and I walked along the
Hudson before Hudson was your name.
Now we live far from there, and you
were so small that you’ll never remember
what it was to walk along the freight tracks
while sunset skirted the mountains
and gilded the open water. The first home
you’ll remember is here, in Tennessee.
But remember, your first home
was there, on the banks of the river,
with the sun shining golden on its tides.


Daniel J. Pizappi lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is a PhD student, Managing Editor of Grist: A Literary Journal, and co-editor of the anthology Kentucky Writers: The Deus Loci and the Lyrical Landscape (Des Hymnagistes Press, 2016). His work has appeared in Still: The Journal, The Mantle, Your Impossible Voice, and Burningword, among others. Visit him at danielpizappi. Twitter: @DjPizappi