If you ain’t never watched your parents kiss
ain’t neva have them teach you
‘bout the way lips will to bend & curve
against a lover’s affirmation
If you ain’t never watched the knowing nod
of sweethearts worn away & soft
as a speaker box’s blown out hiss
If you ain’t witnessed the glue
that connected your mother & father
—how they fused their single selves
into the blunt fist of parents
If you ain’t sure there was a time when
their eyes held each other like a nexus
breaking the lock to dip dark marbles
into certain corners of a shot glass
If you ain’t never known a Saturday night
slick with shiny promises & clouds
wrapped wet in a Pendegrass croon
If you ain’t been taught how
a man hold you close so close
…it look like a crawl
If you ain’t had the memory
of your mother & father sliding
hip to hip Their feet whisper
a slow shuffle & shift Her hand
on his neck grip the shoulder of
a man that will pass his daughters
bad tempers & hands like bowls
If you ain’t watched a man
lean into a woman His eyes
a boat sliding across bronze
pillared in her auburn hair Her
throat holds the urge
to hear how her voice sounds against
the wind of him
If your skin can’t fathom the heat
of something as necessary as this…
Then you can’t know the hurricane
of two bodies how the bodies
can create the prospect of a sunrise
how that sunrise got a name
it sound like: a blues song;
a woman’s heart breaking;
From the record player skipping
the sky almost
Copyright © 2015 by Mahogany Browne. From Redbone (Willow Books, 2015). Used with permission of the author.
I sniff the blooming tiger lily,
two tongues sprung open
from one mouth.
I poison the river unintentionally.
I walk on the designated paths.
I splice the mountain, its body and mouth gaping.
I collect rainwater in a wheelbarrow.
I line the whale’s belly with gifts until
they rupture its stomach.
I water the strawberries.
Again I fill my gas tank with dead things,
generations spun together until shiny.
I feed the ducks fresh lettuce.
I maneuver the dead squirrel
on the road, mark the moment
when creature becomes meat.
I accept that my love is a
poisonous flower, routinely fatal.
I calculate the force of
loving in each glittering death.
All day on this land, in the
deep forest, the electric greens and
still-wet mud writhe with life.
The pond gurgles and whispers.
Everyone here knows to shudder
when they see me coming.
The mangos arrive unbruised
at the grocery store.
The wolves should start running.
Copyright © 2022 by Nisha Atalie. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
My neighbor has decided to poison the flame tree.
He is right, of course.
The tree is over 20 years old, huge, spreading,
and the termites have worn jagged roads clear to its top.
It’s clearly a danger
tilting toward our house—
some fickle wind
my neighbor says could blow it over.
Every fañomnåkan, it sends out its bursts of orange blossoms;
it blooms and blooms and blooms relentlessly,
the flares it sends shooting out into space
more stunning than fireworks
through the window
where my mother
riveted to a bed, doomed by her body to a colorless spot,
gazes out, her head on a pillow—
might have seemed like forever to her who used to climb green mountain sides—
and watches that tree full of sparrows
flitting here and there
and the outlandish blazing petals
steadfastly singing against the blue sky.
My neighbor, true to his word,
injected a poisonous brew bought at Home Depot into the trunk of the tree,
the toxic river
traveling up up up following the termite trails to the heart
of the fire.
He is right, of course.
The tree came back the following year,
its clusters unflinchingly parading their bursts of rebellious orange.
But the poison had done its work—
see, where there was a canopy of flames
there are now just a handful here and there,
one spray in particular desperately
like a fist full of beauty
to the window
used to watch for its return.
Copyright © 2022 by Evelyn Flores. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
That’s when two stuff
Just like when the tides come in
And touch the shores
Bringing what it will.
Fish from the deep
Limu from the shores
ʻOpihi from the rocks
Coconuts on the drift
Logs from the continent
People from around the world
Plastics and ʻopala of all sorts.
The shore has no choice
It has to accept
Whatever the tides bring.
Here we are
In this swirling muliwai
Of ideas and manaʻo
Philosophies and spiritualities.
Like the tides
Ebbing and flowing
The shore has no choice.
But we do!
Copyright © 2022 by Imaikalani Kalahele. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.