after Jenny Xie

Concentric ripple of the canals, little apartment 
at the center point. All June I’ve been in Amsterdam, 
vowels softening to liquid in my mouth. Long walks 
over the cobblestones in the warmest part 
of the afternoon, narrow houses along the water arranged 
like crooked teeth. My steps lead me over a ballet 
of bridges, precarious choreography of bicycles 
and other bodies, the rare car vulgar and roaring 
along the too-small street. I count the faces around 
that could be my faces, features and shades 
from a much older world than this. City I may never 
see again, and still my old need to belong. To daughter
the possibly Sudanese man at the Chipsy King, 
his kind assurance that the dish contains no pork. 
My nails soften and split in the cool dry air. An ashen 
gray patch on my calf and I am ashamed for hours after, 
wetting a finger with saliva to correct it.

Copyright © 2023 by Safia Elhillo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

           with some help from Ahmad

I wanna write lyrical, but all I got is magical.
My book needs a poem talkin bout I remember when
Something more autobiographical

Mi familia wanted to assimilate, nothing radical,
Each month was a struggle to pay our rent
With food stamps, so dust collects on the magical.

Each month it got a little less civil
Isolation is a learned defense
When all you wanna do is write lyrical.

None of us escaped being a criminal
Of the state, institutionalized when
They found out all we had was magical.

White room is white room, it’s all statistical—
Our calendars were divided by Sundays spent
In visiting hours. Cold metal chairs deny the lyrical.

I keep my genes in the sharp light of the celestial.
My history writes itself in sheets across my veins.
My parents believed in prayer, I believed in magical

Well, at least I believed in curses, biblical
Or not, I believed in sharp fists, 
Beat myself into lyrical.

But we were each born into this, anger so cosmical
Or so I thought, I wore ten chokers and a chain
Couldn’t see any significance, anger is magical.
Fists to scissors to drugs to pills to fists again

Did you know a poem can be both mythical and archeological?
I ignore the cataphysical, and I anoint my own clavicle.

Copyright © 2021 by Suzi F. Garcia. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.