I told her how Sacagawea, the Indian woman on the coins,
shepherded Lewis and Clark west and back,
while pregnant or carrying her infant son.
I didn’t tell her that Sacagawea gave that child up to Clark,
or how, years later, Lewis killed himself when he discovered
a world too full of darkness.
Between the kitchen and her bedroom,
she slipped the coins in her mouth like communion wafers.
She sounded like an animal as the coins dammed her throat.
She curled on the carpet,
struggling for air.
Her blue-tinted lips.
I snatched her up
by the ankles,
with my left hand,
clubbing her back
with my right.
The coins tumbled into the carpet’s silence.
She wailed as when the doctor raised her
into the light for the first time.
We sank to the floor.
For a moment, I became Lewis,
and the world tunneled to the size of a gun’s barrel.
Sacagawea looking over her shoulder.
The baby on her back already disappearing.
Ty Stumpf lives in Sanford, North Carolina and is the Chair of the Humanities Department at Central Carolina Community College. He received his BA in English from Catawba College and his MA in English and creative writing from North Carolina State University. His poetry has appeared in Passages North, Nashville Review, Harpur Palate, and other journals. Ty and his wife, Bianka, have a son named Jude and a daughter named Cora.
A note from Ty on "First Allowance"
This poem marks the most frightening moment in my life. I have never felt so terrified, helpless, nor thankful, and trying to understand these feelings led me to write "First Allowance."
Stacy R. Nigliazzo asks Ty three questions:
Keyboard or #2 pencil?
Imagine your favorite poets as your family. Who is your poetry father? Mother? Bratty sibling?
My poetry family looks like this—My father is Yusef Komunyakaa, who tells war stories at dinner. My mother is Anne Sexton, a bit tipsy on wine and blurting out too many secrets. My bratty older brother is T.S. Eliot, who is always showing off and pointing out that he's better than I am.
Think of your “poems I wish I’d written” file. What’s at the top of the list?
I wish I had written "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night." I cannot think of a more perfect poem.