I had put down in writing my fear of the war
I too pined for pastoral description
The blue of the water was the blue of the world
Newness does not, for me, equal satisfaction
A finite number of concentric rings I push out into space
A tedious fabric moving through time without malice
An act of oration, rebellion, inventory, fantasy
The sound of the earth closing its one good eye over me
Imagine: you reach out towards the margin’s white hand
You do what your poems want and are clean
When you lay down your thorns you will be done
You do not take up arms against anyone
Copyright © 2016 by Wendy Xu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 27, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
My son’s head is a fist
rapping against the door of the world.
For now, it’s dressers, kitchen islands,
dining room tables that coax his clumsy, creating
small molehills of hurt breaching
the surface. The ice pack,
a cold kiss to lessen the blow equals
a frigid intrusion, a boy cannot be a boy
with all this mothering getting in the way.
Sometimes the floor plays accomplice
snagging an ankle, elbow, top lip to swell.
Other times it’s a tantrum, when he spills his limbs
onto the hardwood, frenzied then limp with anger,
tongue clotted with frustration,
a splay of 2 year-old emotion voiced in one winding wail.
My son cannot continue this path.
Black boys can’t lose control at 21, 30, even 45.
They don’t get do-overs.
So I let him flail about now,
let him run headfirst into the wall
learn how unyielding perceptions can be.
Bear the bruising now,
before he grows, enters a world
too eager to spill his blood, too blind to how red it is.
Copyright © 2016 by Teri Ellen Cross Davis. “Knuckle Head” originally appeared in North American Review. Reprinted with permission of the author.
“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
I was born among the bodies. I was hurried
forward, and sealed a thin life for myself.
I have shortened my name, and walk with
a limp. I place pebbles in milk and offer
them to my children when there is nothing
else. We can not live on cold blood alone.
In a dream, I am ungendered, and the moon
is just the moon having a thought of itself.
I am a wolf masked in the scent of its prey
and I am driven—hawk like—to the dark
center of things. I have grasped my eager
heart in my own talons. I am made of fire,
and all fire passes through me. I am made
of smoke and all smoke passes through me.
Now the bodies are just calcified gravity,
built up and broken down over the years.
Somewhere there are phantoms having their
own funerals over and over again. The same
scene for centuries. The same moon rolling
down the gutter of the same sky. Somewhere
they place a door at the beginning of a field
and call it property. Somewhere, a tired man
won’t let go of his dead wife’s hand. God
is a performing artist working only with
light and stone. Death is just a child come to
take us by the hand, and lead us gently away.
Fear is the paralyzing agent, the viper that
swallows us living and whole. And the devil,
wears a crooked badge, multiplies everything
by three. You—my dark friend. And me.
Copyright © 2015 by Cecilia Llompart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
—The "Miranda Rights," established 1966
You have the right to remain
anything you can and will be.
An attorney you cannot afford
will be provided to you.
You have silent will.
You can be against law.
You cannot afford one.
You remain silent. Anything you say
will be provided to you.
The right can and will be
against you. The right provided you.
Have anything you say be
right. Anything you say can be right.
Say you have the right attorney.
The right remain silent.
Be held. Court the one. Be provided.
You cannot be you.
Copyright © 2012 by Charles Jensen. Used with permission of the author.
This matters because i’ve lived on that side of life that you all have made for
the orphaned one
i who carry the fire from your ashes, the chains of your people,
and the residual sting from an incessant yellow rain
This matters because i realize something you thought i would never even
that i have a mouth
and a throat!
my body remembers
the flesh, this flesh, my flesh is woke.
This matters because my mouth will let me be myth, no more!
i carry this fire and i carry it well and you will feel this heat
when you come up next to me
i will press you with this light until your sweat turns to boiling hot water
to relieve me
i will lick you, whip you with these flames until your body breaks
like mine to free me
and you will crawl and unlearn love and joy like i did
and you will cry and call for your God like I did.
because i am myth, no more!
and this flame which burned my grandfather’s house down
and this light which shackled my grandmother’s body down
and this heat which scorched my father’s spirit down
will look onto you and take you like it took me too
Because it matters
and this is how you will know me
Because i matter
and this is how you will fear me
Because i can be silent, no more!
to this white lie
or give me death.
From To Whitey & the Cracker Jack (Anhinga Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by May Yang. Reprinted by permission of Anhinga Press.
my words are impoverished,
i don’t make cents here
a mouth that has no reason,
has no season
how sad it is that life is bent,
on how well you spoke
a bull’s thistle and a fox’s tail
You had taken your leave when the white man asked You to
You had taken your stance when the white man threatened You to
johnson’s grass and a lady’s thumb
and when their life tipped,
at the end of your rifle
they forgot their words—gook
they forgot their hate—freed
in a morning glory among witch’s grass
the heavens from above see all, she says
21 November 2004
Copyright © 2017 by May Yang. Used with permission of the author.
for my cousin Julia Zetino The words Notice to Appear flap like a monarch trapped in a puddle. Translation: ten years in a cell cold enough to be named Hielera. If not that, a plane with chains locked to her legs. My aunt swam across the Río Bravo twice to see her second daughter born in Greenbrae. ¿Why can’t my sister come here? asks the one who speaks English. The monarch’s beaten, but it won’t listen. Since nothing’s wasted, it might get eaten, it will nourish ants already gathering. * It was a hill like this. I was tired. I couldn’t keep running and fell. If it wasn’t for the women who went back to pick me up from the shore, I wouldn’t be here. * Somewhere along here there’s a bridge. A cactus-pear bridge, red like: the dirtiest sunset, Gila monster hiding, leftover sardines in tin. ¿The hibiscus sprouting? ¿Bougainvillea? One daughter wakes and sees them and the volcano, and fire flowers through her window. She’s never seen the bridge her mom isn’t afraid of. * My aunt, twenty-five years selling pupusas near that pier, ten and counting cleaning houses, baking bread, anything in Larkspur. Most people in La Herradura haven’t seen their parents. Her daughter Julia, over there. Here, her daughter Adriana takes the bus to school every day. * The first try we were already in that van and La Migra was chasing us. The driver said he was going to stop, we should open the doors and run. There were a lot of trucks. Sirens. Men through the speakers. I got to a bush and hid. One dog found me. He didn’t bite. He just stood next to me till one gringo handcuffed me. * This beach, these hills, are pretty. It looks like La Puntilla, except it’s cold. I wish Julia was here. Javier, take a picture of Adriana and me. I’ll send it to Julia. * It’s complicated. Mamá me dejaste, decí que vas a regresar, I said, at night on that same bed you sleep in now. Same bed next to the window from which you see the lemons, the custard apples, the bean fields, then the volcano. I’m sorry none of us ever saw you draw butterflies like we see Adriana draw them, with the caption: “the butterflies were going to save the world from tornado. And did.”
Copyright © 2016, 2017 by Javier Zamora. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.