When a mouth aboard said ship
called out to me, I was a berry
turned sour by sun’s
neglect, an old ornament gone
unglossed. It spoke to me & warranted
a new way of listening & at once
I heard two crows, heard both.
For years, that strange whistle
of new language nettled me sloppily
its orientation unmapped. I let it
holler too long untended, & after
too long an ignorance it came back
to beat me, a bullet of tenacity.
I took too long to know its nature
& now I count a debt. It takes
exactly this much effort to tell you
that I have been stayed. Stayed by
a new forgetfulness, stayed by
an urgent condition, a mother warbler
feeding me melons by the whole.
Is there a mouth as hungry
as mine? As wide in its receiving?
I open to a 30th orbit
& want for nothing more than the syrup
of fruit, than the blade of a garden
in the small of my back, than to bait
the braid of duty.
& so, for this wily bewitched reason
of little perspicuity
I regret to inform you of my imminent
departure, my eventual, divine
escape from cog-wheel
mandates, my prescriptions grown old.
What I love is a heaven
that vexes me—& to it I must become
a faithful wife.

Copyright © 2023 by Camonghne Felix. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 27, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.