After Major Jackson

Because I could say my friends' exes live in a swamp in my heart
            and no one would ask what it means.
Because my head is level and my wrists are narrow.
Because after block parties and cookouts my mom corralled us
            into the bathtub to wash dirt from our soles.
Because nowadays I go to bed with unwashed feet.
Because everyone who didn't eat breakfast in my house hates grapefruit.
Because instead of letting people in, I rebuild myself around them.
Because it haunts me that my aunt would still be alive
            if she still had health insurance.
Because I still think about characters in books I read at age eleven
            now nameless and faceless.
Because all my poems end up in AP style.
Because I always have a crush on someone taller than me.
Because I can't find anyone in New England who knows what it's like
            to ride the Brown Line over the Chicago River in summertime.
Because my best friend and I have different words for love.
Because I'm still afraid to die.
Because I rode Razor scooters on the blacktop with the boys before school.
Because walking through Boston feels like spitting out cold air.
Because I spend a Valentine's Day at a funeral I couldn't cry at.
Because the winter always makes me like this.
Because I don't know what I mean by like this.

Copyright © Leah Kindler. This poem originally appeared in Respect the Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry from a Chicagoland High School (Penguin, 2022). Used with permission of the author.

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.

“Remember.” Copyright © 1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.