First Morning Poem

- 1958-

   for Nancy Morejon

   DC, Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2008,  Adams House Suite

In a room facing chimneys
over the place Nancy Morejón rests
between sleeps lining free lines
she whispers to hearing DC:
Obsidiana, Vilma en Junio,
Un Gato Pequeño A Mi Puerta.

Morning is birdsong
in an old Spanish town.

Though the chief
in his acquired misery
echoes Kenya until he breathes
life into malady, or at least compels
us so to believe, she sleeps with
Africa, Canton, and other points slavery
turn Cuban in her bone breath
bringing love, embrace, freedom from
whatever holds the rest of us in weight.

The lifting is simple, yet
without it how sad we all be.

Embargo=fear
Yet here she is!

Sugaring our boughs before we break.

More by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Street Confetti

for Stephanie


Right across Turk Street, south side intersection Hyde,
in the tenement where 911 won’t summon up a blue,
a man beats his woman,
the twentieth time or more, their kids bawling.
Over here, in this flat up on the third,
above blazing red neon signs highlighting
the Triple Deuce Club low below, I listen while
wired white hippies move furniture across checkered tiles 
other side my sister’s arched plaster ceiling till way past 3 a.m.
Shuffling with a sofa as if rearranging the heavens in my mind.

Me, I sleep. Or try to. Nothing else I can do.
Each day I slip off and out looking for work, gliding into the
Streets of San Francisco
winding, curving, like turbulence.
Daybreak brings sweet Cambodian street children out
into a Feinstein-era playground,
still filled with hypes, winos, yellow-green from the night before,
still smelling like piss and lizard.

These kids though, they climb atop steel swing-set bars,
fifteen, twenty feet high,
as if they’re walking joint lines in concrete.
Easy balance, Mohawk grace.
Their sisters provoke a paper war in the street,
     closed-off        block party.
     Paper flying by, I
catch a piece, fold it origamically, create
a mock financial pyramid, toss it back,
watch little girls with black shiny ponytails make confetti
for this ongoing ticker-tape parade,
right across Turk Street, intersection Hyde.

America, I Sing Back

for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

Leaving

No matter how he wrested himself silent in night,
six days post-stroke he woke fluent in former languages,
backtracking this time here.
 
Mercy nurses, attendants, remedied in their own.
Once he registered, all he cawed out was
          if it’s too far gone, we need to talk.
 
     All of this, what I am, doesn’t know how to die.
     All I know how to do is survive. All I ever done.
 
     If it’s time, tell me, tell me, give me four days. 
     I’d like to have that blanket Dustin designed.
     Damnit, I hate to leave this beauty,           life.
 
On the fourth, came the Pendleton, delivered
right on time. His breath slowed, eased, then quit.
That was it.
 
After some hours the rest of us slept.
Some of us sleep still left.