Someone else used to do this before. Someone responsible, someone who loved me enough to protect me from my own filth piling up. But I’m over 40 now & live alone, & if I don’t remember it's Thursday & rise with the cardinals & bluejays calling up the sun, I’m stuck with what’s left rotting for another week. I swing my legs like anchors over the side of the bed & use the wall for leverage to stand, shuffle to the bathroom. In summer, I slide into a pair of shorts & flip flops, wandering room to room to collect what no longer serves me. I shimmy the large kitchen bag from the steel canister, careful not to spill what’s inside or rip it somehow & gross myself out. Sometimes I double bag for insurance, tying loose ends together, cinching it tightly for the journey. Still combing through webs of dreams, of spiders’ handiwork glistening above the wheeled container on the back patio, I drag my refuse down the driveway past the chrysanthemums & azaleas, the huge Magnolia tree shading the living room from Georgia’s heat, flattening hordes of unsuspecting ants in my path to park it next to the mailbox for merciful elves to take off my hands. It is not lost on me that one day someone responsible, someone who loves me enough will dispose of this worn, wrinkled container after my spirit soars on. I don’t wait to say thank you to those doing this grueling, necessary work. But I do stand in the young, faintly lit air for a long moment to inhale deeply, & like clockwork when he strides by, watch the jogger’s strong, wet back fade over the slight rise of the road.
Copyright © 2018 by Kamilah Aisha Moon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I didn't know I was grateful
for such late-autumn
yellow in the after-harvest
sun before the
cold plow turns it all over
I didn't know
I would enter this music
that translates the world
back into dirt fields
that have always called to me
as if I were a thing
come from the dirt,
like a tuber,
or like a needful boy. End
lonely days, I believe. End the exiled
and unraveling strangeness.
From The Unraveling Strangeness by Bruce Weigl, published by Grove/Atlantic. Copyright © 2003 by Bruce Weigl. Reprinted by permission of Grove/Atlantic. All rights reserved.
they asked me to write a poem like a lush life,
a johnny hartman poem. a poem that would make
your fake eyelashes fall off. a poem with the city all
up in it. a poem, matter of fact, like a city, one that
can only be reached by train. yeah, write us a poem
like a train, but not like coltrane. just write a coltrane
poem that contains the essence of the city, the way
the horizon sounds like elvin jones playing cymbals
& trash trucks. i mean, just write a poem that contains
the essence of west philly—a poem you’ve already
written—write that. yeah, write a recycled philly poem
about a philly that doesn’t exist anymore. write the
sequel. write a new romancing the stone, but set it in
philly, starring a black woman poet & a belizean sailor.
write that scene where your angry neighbors shut down
a fast food joint with danny devito or those motley kids
discover the smirking mouth of a creek buried under
43rd. make sure it’s juicy with brotherly love & that other
stuff. drop-in a cheesesteak, but make sure it’s gluten-free
because our audience is particular. y’know, like people who
don’t like poetry. not that you can’t write what you want,
but for now, just write it like you love every damn inch
of the city. even the hawks & vultures & raccoons & the
characters like knives sharpened by the week, or like fruit
bruised & first-frosted. write it like you believe the city has
seasons, that it can change in its deepest cracks, unseen
corners. write like you know these corners, you know
why this building is painted pink, why this one is empty,
why this one is a missing tooth on the block. write it like
you know what it’s like for a tooth to be taken. write it
like you know what it’s like for a home to be lost. or try
writing it like you carry the voices of lost homes to bed
with you. like they are evidence & you are a detective.
like they are memories & you are family. write it like you
can see beyond seeing. like you know the origin of
shoulders sharp as javelins, can decode 3-pointed stars
hunched under streetlights. like you are related to the men
selling socks & incense, oils & belts. like you can read the
compass on their faces. like you can recreate the arpeggios
of the one-eyed singer or the $200 upright with beer-colored
keys at the thrift store. just write a poem like a secondhand
store full of dishes & leather jackets. vibrating with the leftovers
of people. bleeding in solidarity with a woman in a ripped red
sweater like an ear, wailing in the street one summer night.
a poem full of peach seeds & lightning bugs. a poem that can
change the color of the sky.
Copyright © 2018 by Yolanda Wisher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.