Nothing to Declare
There is no name for what rises in you
as you enter the dim world of the taxi
and wheel through the night, escorted
by smooth jazz and a battalion of street-
lights. At the airport, you heave the bags
you have stuffed to the limits of carriage
and check them in. You have no trouble
knowing what to do with your empty
hands. At security, the usual stripping.
You surrender your body to the scan,
the searching sweep, as if what is dangerous
is not what cannot be so easily detected.
You comply. At the gate, grateful to be
early, you sit with your books, plug in
devices that tether you to this place
you’re meant to be leaving, that crowd
out thoughts of arrival and its bittersweet
complications. Yuh going home or just visiting,
someone will ask, and you never know
how you will answer. You know the bones
of your mother’s brown arms will wind
around you, her breath against your neck
will baptize you again in names you have
no one to call you in the other place
you belong to. You know the waiting
untended in you will surge toward her,
and you know something else will sink,
sulk itself into a familiar, necessary sleep.
You know yourself now only as the ocean
knows this island—always pulling away,
always, always, returning.
Copyright © 2021 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 12, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.