If I am Wrong
by Cathryn Hankla


You don’t want this poem.
If I am wrong then stop

writing the other poem in your head
as you read. I heard one

on the radio. Terrible.
Couldn’t wait for it to be done,

but in my head as it droned on,
a more perfect poem.

If that poem said stick figures,
my poem said stuck no more.

If that poem said apricot or sea otter,
my poem said Koatoan or

Massachusetts. When that poem said,
Sometimes my microwave beeps

a dire warning, this poem said,
The odd whistles of which you’ve been

complaining issue from my African Grey.
When the elevator doors opened

in that poem, on an unfamiliar floor,
strangers waved an important piece

of my mail. We would have gotten
this back to you sooner, that poem said,

but we were on a Caribbean cruise and our
family members drank too much.

As you know, we don’t drink.
In this poem we take the stairs,

my statement’s delivered on time, and I
rewrite the ending, over and over.


Cathryn Hankla’s the author of thirteen books of poetry and fiction, including Fortune Teller Miracle Fish: stories, Last Exposures: a sequence of poems, and the forthcoming poetry collections Great Bear (2016) and Galaxies (2017). She serves as Poetry Editor of The Hollins Critic and chairs the English Department at Hollins University.

Read more from Cathryn Hankla here!