oriño ka-n-an manbo emalé

teach your daughters
to sing the song backwards
wind in their mouths

teach them early
to breathe in the dust 
swirl it into their lungs

teach your children 
that the opposite of a secret
is a drink

teach them 
by example
to drink air


send your daughters
where the earth is soft

they’ll come back
and tell you life is hard

send your daughters
off the planet now

show them how
to do their dirt
in space

send your daughters
to the sky 
for clay

practiced as they are
at leaving earth

teach your daughters
that the only world they’ll have
will be the one they shape
by hand
and foot


train your daughters
how to dance in mud

cleanse them 
of the myth 
of solid ground

show them that
the mark they make
is evidence of body
not of word

is evidence of soil
and not of breath

teach your daughters
how to outrun death

Copyright © 2024 by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 22, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.