I am a black woman
the music of my song
some sweet arpeggio of tears
is written in a minor key
and I
can be heard humming in the night
Can be heard 
in the night

I saw my mate leap screaming to the sea
and I/with these hands/cupped the lifebreath
from my issue in the canebrake
I lost Nat’s swinging body in a rain of tears
and heard my son scream all the way from Anzio
for Peace he never knew .… I
learned Da Nang and Pork Chop Hill
in anguish
Now my nostrils know the gas
and these trigger tire/d fingers
seek the softness in my warrior’s beard

am a black woman
tall as a cypress
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance
    on me and be

From Continuum: New and Selected Poems (Just Us Books, Inc., 2007 and 2014) by Mari Evans. Copyright © 2007 and 2014 by Mari Evans. Used with the permission of the Estate of Mari Evans.

Praise to the obsidian sole, which kisses the glass-
coated asphalt before becoming airborne. Praise 
to the black tongue, camouflaged, yet still 
flashing a warning of give no shit. Praise to the 
magic of ones turned two-piece, left and right 
feet a pair of wingmen to all that is fair in love. 
Original uniform of the fighter, multi-mission, 
robbin’ hoodies from designer shops to redistribute 
wealth. Praise to the weave of your vamp poised 
to catch flight into ribs at night, at noon, 
whenever. Praise to the aight whatever, 
aight bet, spoken wordlessly via emblem, 
prophecy of manual dexterity, long rumored
tale of ten toes down come true. Praise to 
your run through rap charts, Nelly who sang
of your stomp and survival, to 1982
the year of your birth, your absorption of
pressure waves from apartheid bombings,
Tough, by Kurtis Blow rerouted into
the democratization of dark energy. Ode to 
your essence making up 73% of the cosmos,
the power of 310 Angola aircraft in a single heel, 
to each uptown caressing a possible president,
to a force beyond force = mass x acceleration.
Fast lil ma working behind the cash register. 
On the way home she passes home. 
Ode to what you gave her, what you give her, 
wherever she’s going.

Copyright © 2023 by Bryan Byrdlong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

When first you sang a song to me
With laughter shining from your eyes, 
You trolled your music liltingly
With cadences of glad surprise. 

In after years I heard you croon
In measures delicately slow 
Of trees turned silver by the moon
And nocturnes sprites and lovers know. 

And now I cannot hear you sing, 
But love still holds your melody
For silence is a sounding thing
To one who listens hungrily. 


From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.