Sea Sonnet: Dakar, 2018

I begged for tongues the way that I was taught—:
hanala si ke andana—: whispered close.
Was this the Holy Spirit that I sought?—:
Bashful tongue drawing silence from my throat.
Trinity lesson, clicked behind my teeth,
Welling like memory I stood to receive
There at the altar. Blood that flowed beneath
Scripture an ocean gave me to believe.
Atlantic, how you sing to me my own!
Rhythm of roar and stillness, treasured still,
Hushed in my marrow ] shut up in my bones! [
Less like a fire than crash and salt of will
Preserving as the sunset breathes the sky,
Parsing the wave’s lip pressed into a sigh....


Copyright © 2018 by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Inspired by a recent trip to Senegal and by my Pentecostal upbringing in Daytona Beach, Florida, ‘Sea Sonnet: Dakar, 2018’ is meant to evoke the tide, going out and returning like memory. I’m interested in the ways ritual and meaning travel, in language as vehicle. The poem attempts a written glossolalia, and includes a snippet of a gospel song I grew up singing in church, a section I remember for its syncopated rhythm. This poem is intended to be read both down the page and back up again.”
—Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon