(excerpted from) The Interview

Mamie Morgan

My dad’s job in Afghanistan

was to pick guys up after mission.


He once made it outside Kandahar


before the propeller hit some trash

and this mattress cut off the leg of a soldier


he carried. When we read Romeo and Juliet


I kept thinking, sometimes it’s the Montagues

and the Capulets, sometimes it’s a man against


a mattress. You’re the guy who read


my story, right? You know how it opens

with a father watching this shooting star


from a living room window? In my head


it’s not a star. In my head it’s his kid hid

in a tin can, cannonballing through space.


ZZ Packer, Raymond Carver, Zadie Smith.

Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, may I look


at my notes? Junot Diaz, Jhumpa Lahiri,

I saw on the website you don’t want kids


who read sci fi, fantasy, old stuff. But

Nat Geo just reported a lake on Mars.


Tell me that doesn’t make you want

to write some story about a pregnant


Mars-lady who recycles, yells to her

other kids, stop playing Fortnite, falls


in love with the wrong guy across a lake.

There’s a way to live on another planet


and y’all aren’t into it?


My friend Patrick says no poems

with cicadas in them, but also he’s


one of those guys who only reads tomes.

So it’s like: dude, you’re fifteen. Try no


poems with the big words you use

to hide from everybody. He likes jazz


and he likes jazz for real, so I’m always

telling him, just write jazz poems, Jesus.


I say no poems with adjectives in them.

My third grade teacher called them sparkle


words, but all I ever care about are verbs.

Eccentric is easy. Try writing about


your bipolar aunt they found hitching

just south of Salem, carrying one ice skate,


trying to find her way into the Enchanted Forest.


When I grow up I’m living alone

on the Damariscotta River with a black dog—

friends say that’s weird but think of the Polish chemist

Clara Immerwahr—first lady PhD in her field, married in Breslau.


It’s hard to know what way to order

a story. Dad says you only got so long

to get in the boat. But you can’t give it all away

up front either. Tricky business. The husband became


famous for swinging gas into warfare.

No stopping him. Money, recognition, she stayed

home with a baby. The soul has moments of escape but

only if you let it. Let me finish: When people ask why I don’t


want kids I can’t exactly say

because of some stupid Dickinson line—

because of some Polish chemist who shot herself in the heart.


You probably think of Mary Oliver

as a poet, but she’s maybe best at journaling,


which Patrick says isn’t really an art form

but my mom calls the guy who details her car


an artist, so it’s like: perspective.

Field journals are my favorite thing.


Sometimes the notes you take far exceed

what you could ever create from them.


Sometimes as a kid I can only go

as far as the road, but even there


are riches: late morning when the sun

and moon stay out together, the metal


praying mantis Mr. Miller glued

to his mailbox, the photographer taking


engagement photos of a couple walking

straight down the middle of two yellow lines.


MAMIE MORGAN teaches poetry at The South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Muzzle, Four Way Review, The Oxford American, Inkwell, Smartish Pace, Carolina Quarterly, The Greensboro Review, Cimarron, Yemassee, and elsewhere. She lives in the woods with her husband and two pitbulls, Henrietta Modine and Wednesday Stewart.