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poetry The Embarrassment of Being in the World

Massachusetts poet Kathy Nilsson exposes feelings of alienation in the current state of the world: “I don’t recall being American, or even here.”

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The Embarrassment of Being in the World

By Kathy Nilsson

Families of American trees move west

in search of familiar weather.

The sun is putting some of us to death.

News has the repetition of fine needlepoint––

a pair goes out for a stroll but only a man returns,

with sense that first appeared in a worm

we declare you unsuitable to be where you are,

police shoot young black man showing a sign

of young black manhood.

Like the woman after the war who didn’t remember

whether their targets were animals or human

I don’t recall being American, or even here.

“The Embarrassment of Being in the World” was first published in What Nature, edited by Timothy Donnelly, BK Fischer and Stefania Heim (Boston Review, 2018).

Kathy Nilsson earned a BA from Mount Holyoke College and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars.  Her book, The Infant Scholar, was published by Tupelo Press in January 2015.  Her chapbook, The Abattoir, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008, and in 2011 she received the Poetry Society of America’s Robert H. Winner Award.  She lives in Cambridge with her husband and son.