Poem of the Week | February 10, 2018

This week we are delighted to present “Goldfinch,” a new poem by Maia Elsner.

Maia Elsner is a British-Mexican writer, who began writing poetry while studying migration and diaspora as a Henry Fellow at Harvard University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Ekphrastic Review and Colorado Review. She now lives in south London.


What part of rubble makes
the architect? In the morning,
orange juice pressed fresh

             in memory, tarter, not quite

the sweetenough
of home. This early hour
you wonder

              what the hummingbird says

to the goldfinch of its
migration, discovering
that somewhere in the midst

              of these past thirty years,

that place was found
mislaid in each
revisitation back to 1988. Now

             the church is sinking through

the torn-up streets
of Coyoacan, tree-roots more deliberately
displacing concrete. They

              grow too deep. At dusk,

the jacaranda scent infiltrates
colonial walks, their cobbled-ness
delineates peripheries,

              and somewhere on the edge

of consciousness,
those untranslatable ridges,
replaced by roads.

             Your psychotherapist states

it’s all a fog, your
confrontation & something else
you were, slips out

             unbidden with you

still up at 4 am, still
jet-lagged, from that first time,
when just outside

              a bird begins, with me
still wondering what part of you

I lose each day
to another language, another song.

Author’s Note

In June 2018, I returned to my family home in Oxford, after a year spent living in Boston, Massachusetts. One morning, in that first week back, I woke to the sound of familiar voices downstairs – the radio, the sound of my father squeezing fresh orange juice, laughter. I jumped out of bed, rushed downstairs, so regretful that I had missed breakfast, missed catching my parents before they went to work. But the kitchen was still dark. There was no smell of coffee bubbling on the stove. No clatter of spoons in bowls. Instead, there was just the first bird-song of morning. And my mum, wrapped in a blanket on the sofa, on the phone to her family in Mexico – as she has been, in the middle of the night, almost every night, since she left home. I grew up watching her trying to exist simultaneously in two different worlds, and I have shared her nostalgia for the land she left in 1988, that no longer exists, except, perhaps, in our joint memory and imagination.