They grow too aware of crowns, spend
evenings rinsing and rinsing, water boiled
with oils and herbs left to cool
alongside chicken and grains. The women
send their children to work, on themselves
or the house, and steam their scalps.
I dream of my father but don’t know what he says.
It’s kind. I share rice and other grains with a man.
I hand him light in my kitchen.
He takes it and my belly cools.
I prefer not to write about love.
I prefer not to write about my body.
My father’s love, my mother’s body.
Both regenerate with astounding speed.
At times, I find myself in an ancient pose.
In a café, I make my arms a bow
and look up, as if an arrow will appear
at an absurd angle. I mark a line
from privacy to throat, trace the dark line
under my bellybutton. Maybe someone
took my astral baby. Maybe I birthed the man
who denied me. Maybe he had to deny me
to avoid a crime. I don’t point my fingers.
I’m convinced our fate is determined
in part by water, that we can’t avoid walking by
or being near a body of it, however we plan our travel.
That showers are prescribed before birth.
How many things have I missed
letting my wet bangs touch my eyelashes,
singing into a stream?
Copyright © 2019 by Ladan Osman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I hope to God you will not ask me to go anywhere except my own country. If we go back, we will follow whatever orders you give us. We do not want to go right or left, but straight back to our own land.
I hope to God you will not ask
Me or my People to send
Postcard greetings: lamented wind
Of perfect sunrisings, golden
Yes, we may share the same sun setting
But the in-between hours are hollow
The People fill the void with prayers for help
Calling upon the Holy Ones
Those petitions penetrate and loosen
The binds you tried to tighten
Around our heart, a tension
Blocking the wind, like a shell
Fluttering inside, fluttering inside
Copyright © 2019 by Esther Belin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can't see, can't hear,
Can't know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren't always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
We pray that it will be done
From In Mad Love and War © 1990 by Joy Harjo. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Translated by B. Deutsch and A. Yarmolinsky
What will you do, God, when I die?
I am your jar (if cracked, I lie?)
Your well-spring (if the well go dry?)
I am your craft, your vesture I—
You lose your purport, losing me.
When I go, your cold house will be
Empty of words that made it sweet.
I am the sandals your bare feet
Will seek and long for, wearily.
Your cloak will fall from aching bones.
Your glance, that my warm cheeks have cheered
As with a cushion long endeared,
Will wonder at a loss so weird;
And, when the sun has disappeared,
Lie in the lap of alien stones.
What will you do, God? I am feared.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.