Pathogenesis

Sea of strangers exhales.               

                                              Something natural

 
reorders us                without consent.           We reorder         

 
            the coastline.               My therapist:         

 
                                                           what do you feel 

 
 in your stomach?     In your chest?    I feel nothing.  Nothing 

 
matters. I touch nothing.    I’m angry.   Stop

 
asking.                 Have you ever stood on a shore, 

 
felt the water change heights?  Felt the wet sand rush to squeeze

 
your legs too tight? 

 
                               In each of us:

 
                                            possibility,   a knife wedged 

 
           under the mattress, a new strangeness, an undiscovered way 

 
       we could touch each other, a bird never heard before 

 
   singing, an untaken path, 

 
                                    or genesis.

Related Poems

What the Silence Said

Do you still believe in borders now?  

Birds soar over your maps and walls, and always have.     

You might have watched how the smoke from your own fires  

travelled on wind you couldn’t see    

                                            wafting over the valley

and up and over the hills and over the next valley and the next hill.

 

Did you not hear the animals howl and sing?   

Or hear the silence of the animals no longer singing?   

Now you know what it is to be afraid.  

You think this is a dream?  It is not

a dream.    You think this is a theoretical question?  

What do you love more than what you imagine is your singular life?   

The water grows clearer.  The swans settle and float there.    

 

Are you willing to take your place in the forest again?    to become loam and bark

to be a leaf falling. from a great height.  to be the worm who eats the leaf

and the bird who eats the worm?    Look at the sky: are you

willing to be the sky again?  

 

                                              You think this lesson is 

too hard for you    You want the time-out to end.  You want

to go to the movies as before, to sit and eat with your friends.

It can end now, but not in the way you imagine    You know

the mind that has been talking to you for so long—the mind that

can explain everything?    Don’t listen.
 

You were once a citizen of a country called I Don’t Know.

Remember the burning boat that brought you there?   Climb in.

On Anger

My white therapist calls it my edge, I hear
Angry Black Woman. She says, Strength
of Willful Negative Focus. She says, Acerbic
Intellectual Temperament. I copy her words
onto an index card. She wants
an origin story, a stranger with his hand
inside me, or worse. I’m without
linear narrative and cannot sate her. We
perform rituals on her living room floor. I burn
letters brimming with resentments, watch
the paper ember in the fireplace, admit
I don’t want to let this go. What if anger,
my armor, is embedded in the marrow
of who I am. Who can I learn to be
without it? Wherever you go,
there you are. She asks what I will lose
if I surrender, I imagine a gutted fish,
silvery skin gleaming, emptied of itself—

Incantation of the First Order

Listen, no one signed up for this lullaby. 
No bleeped sheep or rosebuds or twitching stars 
will diminish the fear or save you from waking 

into the same day you dreamed of leaving
mockingbird on back order, morning bells
stuck on snoozeso you might as well  

get up and at it, pestilence be damned. 
Peril and risk having become relative,
I’ll try to couch this in positive terms:

Never! is the word of last resorts, 
Always! the fanatic’s rallying cry. 
To those inclined toward kindness, I say

Come out of your houses drumming. All others, 
beware: I have discarded my smile but not my teeth.