Previous: Nomi Stone reads "Gay Marriage Poem"
Next: Anna Akana reads "Good Bones"



View count:8,578
Last sync:2023-03-09 20:00
Edgar Kunz reads his poem, "Salvage".


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt granted rights; use credit line in video: “Salvage” from Tap Out: Poems by Edgar Kunz. Copyright © 2019 by Edgar Kunz. Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Brought to you by Complexly, The Poetry Foundation, and poet Paige Lewis. Learn more:

11 issues of Poetry, subscribe today for $20:

Follow us elsewhere for the full Ours Poetica experience:

#poetry #ourspoetica
I'm Edgar Kunz and this is "Salvage" from my book Tap Out.

This is a poem for my mom who saved me.


Still somewhere in me the summer
spent driving steel into the wet earth: heft
and swing of the mattock, my blistered hands,
blackflies rising like steam.  The tables 
I served.  The law firms I hustled 
from one zipline to another, classroom
where I taught economics to the medicated
kids of bus drivers and stevedores, swept-
clean boulevards of the city that paid me
to snap a picture of every downtown
business, jot the names and hours in a spiral-
bound book.  Somewhere in me the failed
industrial towns of New England
with their posh English names -- Weymouth,
Bridgeport, Lowell, Worcester -- their dead
cars, their factories and silk mills converted
and upsold to commuters, somewhere
the third-floor walkup we lived in
longest: cracked plaster and single pane, plastic
paneling painted to look like real wood,
and my stepmother, my real mom, bending
over the glossy stack of Star Market mailers,
hands thin, approximate, bright scars
on the backs of her wrists where the surgeries
didn't take, and me, problem kid
with a mushroom cut and his shirt tucked
into his sweats, clipping the dollar-offs,
the half-offs, the buy-one-get-ones, the buy-one-
get-twos, the store-issued doublers, shoulder 
to shoulder on the kitchen floor and the afternoon
stretching on into no kind of heaven
I could have understood then.  Of peeling
linoleum and the drone of interstate traffic.
Of WIC checks, name-brand knockoffs, the gray
stamps card made to pass as a regular Visa.  
Where we are allowed to know exactly what we
can have, and keep.  And what it will cost.