Imaginary Photo Album or, When We Die, Our Polaroids Speak to Our Living Descendants

To Keep
the memories nimble, place your fingers inside the mouth of her hair.
The history there is one motion, told and retold by millions of bodies 
over hundreds of years. Sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, 
lover, friend, partner, braid me. Keep the tales of what we cannot forget here.


To Float
think of silted braided rivers. Now extricate the rivulets. Use your tongue.
Can you discern salt from iron or shell from shale? This is what it is like
to make a world with words. 


To Re-grow
a tongue, pull it from beneath silt at the bottom of the sea. 
If it is knotted, frayed, tangled, you can take up my voice. Look for my
feathers in dust, find my matted feathers in the surf. There, make
a nest for me. Gather shells and driftwood. Dig a small bowl
in the sand. Let the patterns arrange themselves into a beautiful thing.
Ask me to come, and you will find me on the horizon, glittering.


To Claim
you we claimed ourselves. We touched the surfaces of mirrors
with no reflections. Hic sunt leones. Here there are lions. Here are waves.
Imagine us a tide of lions crashing on sandy shores, returning for what is ours.


To Unfold
into a receptacle for holding joy, entrust your tender heart to another.
Look. We are more than our scars. We hold the memory of trauma
in our roots. And still, here is a moment of pure joy. See how our chests
shake the air with a trust manifested from generations of resilience? 
Reach for each other. Embrace. Grow flowers with your lungs.

Copyright © 2022 by Art 25: Art in the 25th Century. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.