For Frank X Walker
FXW: I don’t know how to swim
FXW: There were no pools for Black Folk when I was coming up
In sleep’s 3-D theatre: home,
a green island surrounded
by the blue of ocean. Zoom
to the heart, see the Couva
swimming pool filled with us
—black children shrieking
our joy in a haze of sun; our life-
guard, Rodney, his skin flawless
and gleaming—black as fresh oil
—his strut along the pool’s edge,
his swoonworthy smile; Daddy
a beach-ball-bellied Poseidon,
droplets diamonding his afro;
my brother, hollering as he jumps
into his bright blue fear, his return
to air gasping and triumphant.
And there, the girl I was: dumpling
thick and sun-brown, stripped
down to the red two-piece suit
my mother had made by hand,
afloat in the blue bed of water,
the blue sky beaming above.
When I wake up, I’m in America
where Dorothy Dandridge
once emptied a pool with her pinkie,
and in Texas a black girl’s body
draped in its hopeful, tasseled bikini,
struck earth instead of water,
a policeman’s blue-clad knees
pinning her back, her indigo wail
a siren. I want this to be a dream,
but I am awake and in this place
where the only blue named home
is a song and we are meant to sink,
to sputter, to drown.
Copyright © 2018 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
the day after the mulberry tree fell on its belly, the army bombed a truck
full of black umbrellas sent from russia against the tyranny of rain. they
said, the black umbrellas are no longer allowed in the mountains. hats
are. guns are. gods are. the trees are offensive to the sky. then
they called our language mountain, then they pronounced it dead.
we are in a dream, you said. undo the pain before you speak
against the gods with mouths full of rain. a tongue cut in half
becomes sharper, you said. date your wound.
Copyright © 2020 by Öykü Tekten. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 21, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.