Night Needs No Stars

for Janice Mirikitani

I watched you survivesurvive
your thick hair and wide laugh
a list of words we were not allowed
to write into poems
the blanket is the night
you were too bright to be a star
to give blankets is an ancient trick
for you, a balm
and June who if she was her month
straddling spring and summer
with her arches, tunnels, bridges
then you, might have been her
balance, an autumn predicting
softness, snow that never reaches fog
snow that illuminates no mattermatter the time
you and she making us make words
and we brokebroke by making words
matter and you blanket and stars both and all.


Copyright © 2022 by Youmna Chlala. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem when I heard of Janice Mirikitani’s passing. I took her Poetry for the People workshop at Glide Memorial Church long ago and was a witness to her work and friendship with June Jordan. They both created worlds of possibility through language and care for people in an intimate, everyday way. The title is a line from a Paul Celan poem that my love was reading to me as we spoke about the explosion in Beirut. I write this poem towards her presence, rather than about the news of her absence, as a way to honor what I had learned from her.”
Youmna Chlala