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poetry Inauguration Poem

Poet Lynn Melnick captures a moment traumatic violence, what she calls “inauguration,” and its lasting effect: “there was always dread.”

Inauguration Poem
By Lynn Melnick        

Do you know what it's like when a body twice yours
holds you down in the room where you make your life

until you wouldn't know how to move even if he wasn't
holding you down and then he splits you further open

and the world before

had been filled with its usual losses and rages not this

what is this do you know

what it's like when you live just one door away and every
time you have to step outside, well no, he's not there,

not now, but he could be and the dread is

everything for years

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even when sometimes there is whisky and sometimes
there is joy, there is dread in the ficus tree on the landing

and dread in the weather-beaten flag by the garage
and dread in the cash inside the mattresses that are always

moving in and out

of the building next door and what if people call you
corny because you still hold onto details like all the gray

kitten posters on the gray walls of every quakeproof hospital
you were sent to to escape the dread and yet

even when they pumped you full of drugs and even when
they dried you out of them, there was always dread

and you were

and you will be

nose down in every room in which you try to make your life?

Lynn Melnick is the author of three books of poetry, including, most recently, Refusenik. She is also the author of the memoir I've Had to Think Up a Way to Survive: On Trauma, Persistence, and Dolly Parton.

This poem first appeared in Refusnik (Yes Yes Books, 2022)