Out here, there’s a bowing even the trees are doing.
Winter’s icy hand at the back of all of us.
Black bark, slick yellow leaves, a kind of stillness that feels
so mute it’s almost in another year.
I am a hearth of spiders these days: a nest of trying.
We point out the stars that make Orion as we take out
the trash, the rolling containers a song of suburban thunder.
It’s almost romantic as we adjust the waxy blue
recycling bin until you say, Man, we should really learn
some new constellations.
And it’s true. We keep forgetting about Antlia, Centaurus,
Draco, Lacerta, Hydra, Lyra, Lynx.
But mostly we’re forgetting we’re dead stars too, my mouth is full
of dust and I wish to reclaim the rising—
to lean in the spotlight of streetlight with you, toward
what’s larger within us, toward how we were born.
Look, we are not unspectacular things.
We’ve come this far, survived this much. What
would happen if we decided to survive more? To love harder?
What if we stood up with our synapses and flesh and said, No.
No, to the rising tides.
Stood for the many mute mouths of the sea, of the land?
What would happen if we used our bodies to bargain
for the safety of others, for earth,
if we declared a clean night, if we stopped being terrified,
if we launched our demands into the sky, made ourselves so big
people could point to us with the arrows they make in their minds,
rolling their trash bins out, after all of this is over?
From The Carrying (Milkweed Editions, 2018) by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org.
after the 2021 Texas Winter Storm
I’ll admit that I’ve never thought about frostbite.
Trauma of the blood, a thing to be avoided when heat goes out for an entire state.
I don’t know where to place this grief, this sweltering state freezing, politicians breezing over to a country that doesn’t have tissue choked out by its winter yet.
The sky can only do what it does.
The American government can only do what systems driven by green paper, violence & ache can do.
The trees bloom over dead bodies, missing.
The sound of hands rubbing, engines purring, hopes that gas lights or chafing or the rapture won’t come first may quiver in my blood forever.
I am Black but maybe I am doomed.
Memory flashes like a computer screen; I see the zoom link expand. Colleagues process whatever failure number of a thousand this was this year and I can only remember white.
Six inches deep, sunken into my boots all over.
The timeline of friends stranded, impending doom of electricity shutting off, water pressure slipping into nothing every hour, pipes bursting on top of all that white.
I haven’t recovered from seeing things that too-closely resemble holes in a graveyard.
I haven’t forgotten the project is due in 2 weeks.
My therapist says take it easy as if capitalism is listening. As if the body will ever forget what it is given.
I am Black which is history, personified.
I used to listen to Pilot Jones fondly. With all this frostbite on my fingers, I’m not sure if I can type.
I cannot finish another sentence on unity.
What is unified about ERCOT letting us freeze? Knowing how to fix the problem & not doing it; how does that form a Kumbaya circle?
If I made art about every pain I’ve felt unjustly, I would be swimming in accolades for great American books.
I would take back every word I’ve written if it ended this.
America is the worst group project.
I’m writing a great American poem about suffering.
How much is going without food that isn’t canned for a week worth?
The absence of snow feels like betrayal. My memory mixes with American delusion.
I can’t believe half the things that I’ve been through.
Ice cold, baby, I told you; I’m ice cold.
Who said it first, Frank Ocean or Christopher Columbus?
I’ve never been taught how to adequately mourn the nights spent bitching about a brisk wind; the night we almost got stranded trying to get to J before the cold swallowed them whole.
I want to give everything I’ve been handed a good cry. Red skin & chapped lips deserve it.
Good grief, what has Texas done to me.
An article features a person walking past tents near I-35.
I can’t cry about the body but I feel it.
A highway splits a nation from its promise to be one.
Everything feels blurry and the palm trees have died.
Everything transported here withers away eventually.
6 months later and I haven’t been able to shovel out my sadness.
A news report said that it’s safe to go back to work. & I listen, because what else can you do in 6 inches of white.
The snow melted and I still feel frostbitten.
There are no heroes in a freeze-frame changing nothing.
I pose begrudgingly. Say cheese & then write this.
I’m not a survivor; just still breathing.
I remember grief, love’s grand finale.
What else do we have if not the memory of life before this?
I cannot tell you how many lives I’ve lost to mourning, but I can tell you that the sky does what it does.
Let’s go for a walk & touch the trees that survived like us.
Let’s write a future more joyful & less inevitable in segments of leaves.
Anything we dream will be better than this.
Copyright © 2022 by KB Brookins. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.