I have no memory of those first days.

A mental wire sparks as I forget

all things but rocking her as white noise plays.


At times—in lines, on hold—my feet still sway

in the soothing dance we did for months, and yet

I have no memory of those first days.


The images that come to me like hearsay

from a different life—her swaddled silhouette,

her screams immune to comfort—white noise plays


like water in my mind to wash away

the self that lived them (still lives) like a threat.

I have no memory of those first days.


It’s something more than memory that frays:

a moment, 4 AM, a thought I can’t offset

or change. She wails as the white noise plays,


and I imagine leaving her, walking away.

I hold her closer, then, in trembling sweat.

I have no memory of those first days,

just fear and love and fear as white noise plays.



Matthew Sumpter is the author of Public Land (University of Tampa Press, 2018), which won the Anita Claire Scharf Award. The recipient of poetry prizes from Crab Orchard Review and Zocalo Public Square, his individual poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, AGNI, Poetry Daily, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. His creative prose has appeared in Glimmer Train and Pithead Chapel, and his scholarship has appeared in College English. Sumpter is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Tulane University.

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