Poem of the Week | September 28, 2020
Taneum Bambrick “Traveling”
This week’s Poem of the Week is “Traveling” by Taneum Bambrick!
Taneum Bambrick is the author of Vantage, which was selected by Sharon Olds for the 2019 American Poetry Review/Honickman first book award (Copper Canyon Press 2019). Her chapbook, Reservoir, was selected by Ocean Vuong for the 2017 Yemassee Chapbook Prize. A graduate of the University of Arizona’s MFA program, she is the winner of an Academy of American Poets University Prize, an Environmental Writing Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Arts Center, and the 2018 BOOTH Nonfiction Contest. Her poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, PEN, Narrative, The Missouri Review, 32 Poems, West Branch, and elsewhere. She has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She was a 2018-20 Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and currently teaches at Central Washington University.
A horse tied to an old bridge. The river under it pulls
green-thin. To a woman, a man on this train whispers Stay with me,
which also means, I have no concept of what you’ll leave. That was what angered me.
Days ago. Gin through the carpet. Your hands drumming my knees.
How long did I think—as if biting a leash—the most important place
was the place where somebody wanted me.
While applying to teach in Spain for a year, I met with a representative in the Spanish Consulate in Seattle who, after stamping my materials, said: “I guess I won’t be seeing you again.” Because I asked, he explained he meant that I seemed likely to fall in love with a Spanish man. I felt like saying, I just got out of a long-term relationship with a woman, or, I am interested in gaining fluency in a second language to meet the requirements of PhD applications. Instead I laughed and shook his hand.
Traveling for leisure—especially now—is one of the least accessible activities I can imagine. I worry travel writing, as a genre, can disregard the incredible risk or impossibilities of travel for people who are impacted by systemic oppression. I wrote this poem and many of the others in my new project thinking about how I am both complicit in and impacted by those violent systems. This poem in particular started with thinking about perceptions of responsibility, and how relationships can limit a person’s agency by restricting their movement.
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