Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Capital I

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Some days I don’t know myself
from you, or you from your reflection,
which in truth is neither his, nor mine,

nor even your own, but something as yet
undefined, unfixed, like the stars peeling
from the Milky Way on the ceiling,

or the doughnut hole closing softly in your head.
Some days I don’t know myself from me,
can’t shake the stubborn feeling

I’ve been abducted by aliens
and brainwashed into believing
that there is no actual self to protect,

only a sack of sleepless nerves
which would, no doubt, spill everything
under torture. So when all through that first

bewildering summer, as we watched
vintage Sesame Street over and over—
“Capital I,” and “lowercase n,”

the melancholic strains of '70s folk guitar—
I felt the cleaving of new selfhood begin,
the labor pains of the I I was birthing,

even as you became the you you are,
the you you’re still becoming.
Darling, there is no I high in the sky

for you to polish up and keep.
The world will steal you soon enough.
The I will make you weep.


Elizabeth Knapp is the author of The Spite House, winner of the 2010 De Novo Poetry Prize. The recipient of awards from Literal Latté and Iron Horse Literary Review, she has published poems in Best New Poets 2007, Mid-American Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and many other journals. She teaches at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.


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