Reading Joan Aleshire


all came with gifts to the birth:
one with laughter, one with strength,
one with luck, one with love,
one with grace, one with hope,
one with imagination, one with insight,
one with health, one with keen senses,
one with will, and one—
angry with the others or with
my mother, who didn’t believe
in fairy godmothers, took half
my fingers, twisted both my arms.



The only sign on the Certificate of Birth
of something not quite right: the note
in an angular, stiff—unlike my mother’s
generous, round—script: Please Do Not Visit.

And under Trade, profession or particular kind
of work done, as housekeeper, typist, nurse,
clerk, etc
.—the only work women might do—
comes Housewife, in the same awkward,
unfamiliar hand. Under Industry or business
in which work was done, as own home,
lawyer’s office, silk mill, etc
.—which further
dates the document—the writer’s put Home.
Under Total time (years) spent in this work,
she’s written Life, as if she never was a child.

At the end, in the blank after: I hereby
certify to the birth of this child,
who was
______________, the writer’s marked,
in a firm, round, close-to-my-mother’s
usual script, as if her head has cleared
against the official world, her hand steadied,
Alive, this 18th day of March, 1938.



She wouldn’t have taken that
first photograph of me—a few days old,
swaddled in a blanket so neither hands
nor feet appear, lying separate, alone
on a floor in a triangle of light,
with shadows deep as black curtains
framing it on either side and almost
hiding the nurse-like figure who hovers
in a kind but helpless way nearby.
It’s as if I’m being judged,
about to be left there.


all from Joan Aleshire’s Happily (Tribeca: Four Way Books, 2012)



About mckenzielynntozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana, where she works as the Departmental Secretary of English and World Language Studies at Indiana University South Bend, and remains closely affiliated with 42 Miles Press, New Issues Poetry and Prose, and Wolfson Press. She previously received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose and as an Assistant Editor of Poetry for Third Coast. Her poems have appeared in Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Rogue Agent, Thank You for Swallowing, Whale Road Review, The James Franco Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Analecta; and her book reviews have appeared on her website and on The Rumpus. She lives with her husband, their daughter, and three cats. For more, visit View all posts by mckenzielynntozan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: