Parkside & Ocean

there is a kind of memory that feels, somehow
suddenly, like a wound, though not always, not until
one wanders back through: the dark, damp alley the only path 
toward home—every place i have loved has forced me to leave.
and then there is memory as one might always wish: 
bejeweled, like sugar on the tongue upon reentry.
what is the name for the scent that whispers mother,
the twanged hue of evening that gestures island,
limestone, cane, spume? Flatbush, i have sauntered away
from everything that has called me kin now,
as i have before, but in what little time we have left,
let me remember you, let me remember what lay beneath
your weather—your snow-born streams, your troubled foliage. 
guinep, worship, convenience, heel and toe. old dream,
will either of us return to what we once were? to when?


From You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World (Milkweed Editions, 2024), edited by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2024 Milkweed Editions and the Library of Congress. Used with the permission of the author. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 13, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I think this poem was trying to articulate that changes to a landscape are inescapably linked to the shifts within, and forced displacement of, that landscape’s people—those living in relation to and most interested in protecting the landscape as it was. I think this poem wishes to hold those who have been, or are presently being, or will in the future be forced out of Flatbush, Bed-Stuy, Harlem, and elsewhere inside this empire, as well as those resisting this empire’s frontier in Palestine, and Haiti, and the Congo, and all the other places on our shared planet where settler- and neo-colonial logic attempt to erode the bonds between people and land, people and love, people and memory, people and identity.”
—b ferguson