Redacted from a Know-Your-Rights Training Agenda—
That a potholed street in the middling borough of Collingswood, New Jersey, bears the name Atlantic, after an all-consuming body of water.
That all-consuming is Atlas’ curse to bear the heavens on his shoulders.
That after the fall of the gods, half of the heavens is darkness.
That inside the car speeding down the street, I believe I am safe from being halved.
That “I” am not a white box, but a body of water.
That white is a pattern of boys who expect to live long enough to become men.
That some of these boys are whistling by on their bikes, and behind them, clear as a dream, welcome candles in the windows framed by blooms of vervain.
That “welcome” means I thought I was not afraid of the dark.
Since the jade scrubs of the cancer ward.
Since the florescent grid of the factory and the vista of small bones in my father’s collar while I was interpreting for the twenty-something-year-old white citizen,
“Tell your dad he can quit or I can fire him.”
Grief had already burst its cocoon; it ate him like an army of moths from the inside.
That brown men and women kept stitching jackets under the heavens of the machines.
That a moth is trapped in the car with me – it will die, but I do not want to practice florescence alone.
Like a first language bleeding hearts call, speaking truth to power.
I don’t know how they don’t know that power doesn’t care.
That watching fires go out will become a pattern.
That fire is everywhere, and therefore, cheap.
That the hole in my foundation is all-consuming and at its bottom a frangipani tree opens its yellow hands.
That POLICE ICE is printed in yellow or white on the jacket of the night.
That the night walks freely among the ranks of the sun.
That a body of water parted once like a red skirt then sealed over the armored horses of Egypt.
That Whitney Houston is a bone blasting
out the car windows.
That tonight, the night after, the night after that, for as long as the distance between god and a pothole, a moth’s flight will spell,
“They are coming for you.”
Copyright © 2018 by Cynthia Dewi Oka. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.