Don’t knock at my door, little child,
I cannot let you in,
You know not what a world this is
Of cruelty and sin.
Wait in the still eternity
Until I come to you,
The world is cruel, cruel, child,
I cannot let you in!
Don’t knock at my heart, little one,
I cannot bear the pain
Of turning deaf-ear to your call
Time and time again!
You do not know the monster men
Inhabiting the earth,
Be still, be still, my precious child,
I must not give you birth!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
because my mother named me after a child borne still
to a godmother I’ve never met I took another way to be
known—something easier to remember inevitable
to forget something that rolls over the surface of thrush
because I grew tired of saying
no it’s pronounced… now I’m tired of not
conjuring that ghost I honor say it with me: Airea
rhymes with sarah
sarah from the latin meaning a “woman of high rank”
which also means whenever I ask anyone to hold me
in their mouth I sound like what I almost am
hear me out: I’m not a dee or a river
charging through working-class towns where union folk
cogwedge for plots & barely any house at all
where bosses mangle ethnic phonemes & nobody says one
word because checks in the mail so let’s end this
classist pretend where names don’t matter
& language is too heavy a lift my “e” is silent
like most people should be the consonant is sonorant
is a Black woman or one might say the spine
I translate to ‘wind’ in a country known for its iron
imply “lioness of God” in Jesus’ tongue
mean “apex predator” free of known enemy
fierce enough to harm or fast enough to run
all I’m saying is this:
the tongue has no wings to flee what syllables it fears
the mouth is no womb has no right to swallow up
what it did not make
Copyright © 2019 Airea D. Matthews. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.