Sea Sonnet: Dakar, 2018

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
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....

More by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Transit of Venus

The actors mill about the party saying rhubarb
because other words do not sound like conversation.
In the kitchen, always, one who's just discovered
beauty, his mouth full of whiskey and strawberries.
He practices the texture of her hair with his tongue;
in her, five billion electrons pop their atoms. Rhubarb
in electromagnetic loops, rhubarb, rhubarb, the din increases.

RR Lyrae: Matter

He still exists as flesh; it's the idea
that's dissipated—: husband :—what was he?
But a word I loved? There is no panacea
for missing syllables: his body: we
all know what matter's mostly made of—: space
obtains—: One day I realized I beleive—: 
the space in everything is God: that force
of present absence: pen: expanse: I grieve—
] old fashioned: distance: squinting it into view [
between body and name—in here!—I'm loose 
as love is—: nebulous—: what good
this pointillism—: our eyes won't do—: 
Sometimes the absences in us seem so profuse, 
I wonder we don't pass through wood.

Challenger

pretty's just armor
something else

to wear like a dress or a name
not magic like skin

apparel apparent apparently
repellant pretty
don't draw

flies like
honey we just pretend

it does skin is

what draws you don't
believe me

just think skin flick 

the winter sky 
is not a skin you 
might fly right 

out

past it but pretty	
makes an atmosphere
it's hard to get back in

one hitch one weak 

O ring and you are that 
white                    dense 
puff of pinkish smoke 

too thick for cloud
trailers swerving off in opposite
directions someone not
coming home you believed
lifting off you were

bound somewhere boundless 
you will never be that

pretty again

Related Poems

Hecuba on the Shores of Da Nang, 1965

Again the sea-machines creep from the east,
their Cronus jaws unlatched and pups expelled.
The scene the same. Again. Again. The sand
now boot-lace muck, the rutted shore resigned.
No words will do. Laments will not withstand
this thrashing tide. It's time for snarling beast-
speak. Gnash-rattle. Fracas-snap. Unmuzzled
hell-hound chorus unbound from roughened tongues.
Kynos-sema keen-keen lash-kaak nein grind
then ground and rot and reek and teeth and grief
and gabble ratchet growl: custodian
of woe. It doesn't end. Fleets on the reef,
horizon buckling. To meet what comes
the body cleaves from all that is human.