(Being an Occasional Poem for All Q&As Henceforth)

For Jamal Cyrus and Tomás Morin, and all kith who make do to make work

“Do you also make work that isn’t political?”

I mean, do we make work

about where and when we were

raised: the three-whistle corner store

the empty coke bottle trill

the nickname that doesn’t nick us

as we blow through customs

with a toothpick smile

and hell-no eyes, sweet fools

greasing the bike chains

for this day, always saying

someone better fix this street

light? Do we flicker at night

when the kids are sleeping

dim, bright, dim, bright, do we?

Do we, at times, make work

about who breaks the news

to us at breakfast and how the syrup

she’s holding is now trembling, how

she’s beating, beating, beating

what no one can now eat, the mouth

fumbling for what no one

can now say? Do we make it

work with mirrors held

to the bottom of lakes, with combs

pulled through palms, with thumbs

flipping the bills, with two bags

and three names

at the border?

I mean, do we make work

about the road that crackles

with sirens or about Dad’s hydrangeas

which came up again that summer

violet clouds of bruises and pinker

than the Hubba Bubba we were popping

so loud, no one could stand us

but we grinned and grinned because

any air left in us meant

we could still answer

years later

a question like this?

Copyright © 2024 by Divya Victor. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Yannis Ritsos

On Makronissos did he dream of guitars
& the birds that fell asleep in his pockets
at home who became insomniacs
on the prison island the Americans invented

Makronissos / designed to extirpate
his communist cyclamen & his communist love
for the teenagers shot from the roof of the parliament
when the British switched sides & trained the police
who’d killed for the Germans the day before

love for the farmers who laughed
at Churchill’s idea of a king

love for the village network of whispers
for how villagers treated all manner of conquerors
for the light & the waves he knew from his first day
chewing the chains postwar empire was reforming

If you keep resisting demokratia
said the Americans
We can make it so island for you

I’ve dislocated my soul, could you pop it back in
It hurts so much I can’t help but sing
Is that what he said to the 11,999
Greeks he was islanded with
& to the cyclamen & the light & the waves
the stones he had to carry & break
the brambles & the sand

the moon that never changed allegiances
or signed a declaration of repentance

& did he say that to poetry

Makronissos / The island to manufacture silence
Makronisiotika / The poems he made there

Maybe you’ve seen other versions of this
the Battalionists vs. the communists
among them the poets
who could be found

tipping their heads back to see the gulls
drinking their voices as if it were language

putting banned words in bottles to bury
& remembering where
for the days someone might listen again

Copyright © 2024 by Suzanne Gardinier. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.