-after hanif

I guess  black  people  can  write  about  flowers  at   a   time   like   this since   every
poem     turns     on     itself.     Starts     one     way     to     end another.     We     see
it     in     nature     too.      How      seed    turns   to
leaf     regardless     of     its     earth     or     the     thought   inside   my    head
blossoms     into     a     hyacinth     with     as     sweet  a     scent.     Even in dreams,
thought’s pretend cousin, I    often  see      Mamie      Till.      She      walks   the
church    aisle  toward her     son’s     body while wisteria bloats the casket’s brim and
papered bougainvillea bracts emerge   from    where    his    eye    once    was.    An
entire   garden from  the  nutrients  of   once human.   And   not   to   mention all
those    awed    birds    that    circle     Emmett’s     pillowed     corpse. So  many   in
the    tabernacle.    Not    predators of the fleshly bloom or harbingers    of    his
God’s descent,  not    refugees    fleeing    his    body    exilic    but    eternity’s
messengers.  We, who pull breath, confuse death’s irony. Whoever dies and is
remembered stays living.

Copyright © 2022 by Airea D. Matthews. Originally published in Orion Magazine. Used with the permission of the poet.


That there are too many birds—I know this already.
But the buckshot-pierced dove’s open mouth

echoed my lover’s sleep-slackened jaw, so I
covered its body with leaves and swore off

my rifle forever. And if I decided love was possible
because her eyelashes iridesced like peacock feathers,

so be it. If a house sparrow arrives on my sill,
sprig of language pinched in her beak, who am I

to tell her no? The first time I saw the plastic owl
perched on my San Francisco rooftop, I circled

the building three times, awed by the fog-hazed
visitation. The window-stunned robin who hunkered

on my deck for hours—that she flew away meant
one thing, that she left a red stain meant another. 

“The Flock” from Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes by Cheryl Dumesnil, © 2016. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. 

definitions provided by the Navajo–English Dictionary by Leon Wall & William Morgan

dibé bighan: sheep corral 

juniper beams caught charcoal in the late summer morning
night still pooled in hoof prints; deer panicked run from water 

ooljéé’ biná’adinídíín: moonlight

perched above the town drowned in orange and streetlamp
the road back home dips with the earth
                                                                    shines black in the sirens 

bit’a’ :  its sails or—its wing (s)

           driving through the mountain pass
                       dólii, mountain bluebird, swings out—
           from swollen branches
I never see those anymore, someone says 

diyóół        : wind (

                         wind (more of it) more wind as in (to come up)
                         plastic bags driftwood the fence line 


            :             evening—somewhere northward fire 
                                       twists around the shrublands; 
                               sky dipped in smoke—twilight 

        —there is a word for this, 
                                                    someone says 

                                        :           deidííłid, they burned it  
                                        :           kódeiilyaa, we did this

Copyright © 2021 by Jake Skeets. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.