Seawall soliloquy number two: she built a seawall

My cousin 

had a nightmare 

that we kept 

building seawalls 

higher and 


all around 

our island 

up to 

the sky 

until suddenly 

we were 

at the bottom 

of a wishing well



at the world.

Nice Voice

When my daughter whines I tell her to say what you want in a nice voice.

My nice voice is reserved for meetings with a view, my palm outstretched saying here. Are our problems. Legacies rolling out like multicolored marbles. Don’t focus so much on the ‘doom and gloom’ they keep saying. We don’t want to depress. Everyone. This is only our survival. We rely heavily on foreign aid I am instructed to say. I am instructed to point out the need for funds to build islands, move families from weto after weto, my mouth a shovel to spade the concrete with but I am just pointing out neediness. So needy. These small. Underdeveloped countries. I feel myself shrinking in the back of the taxi when a diplomat compliments me. How brave for admitting it so openly. The allure of global negotiations dulls. Like the back of a worn spoon.

I lose myself easily in a kemem. Kemem defined as feast. As celebration. A baby’s breath endures their first year so we pack hundreds of close bodies under tents, lined up for plates I pass to my cousin, assembly line style. Our gloved hands pluck out barbeque chicken, fried fish, scoop potato salad, dew-like droplets of bōb and mā. Someone yells for another container of jajimi. The speaker warbles a keyboarded song. A child inevitably cries. Mine dances in the middle of the party. A pair elbow each other to rip hanging beach balls from their strings. The MC shouts Boke ajiri ne nejim jen maan. The children are obstructing our view. Someone wheels a grandma onto the dance floor. The dances begin here

is a nice
of survival.

Related Poems

from "Dissolve"

There’s a way out—
walk the dirt road into cerulean dawn, 
tap the windows of cars and trucks 
rattling down highway 77 
with clear fingerprints, 
and clasp the nine eyes of the desert 
shut at the intersection of then and now. 

Ask: will this whirlwind 
connect to that one,
          making them cousins to the knife? 

Will lake mist etched 
on flakes of flood-birthed moonlight 
hang its beard on a tow truck
hoisting up a buck,  	
          butterflies leaking from its nostrils, 
          dark clouds draining off its cedar coat? 


razor blades did not

slash rainbows

hands did not

steal light from the dawn

prayers spoken in tongues did not

dissolve into silk pocket linings

air could be bartered

for fire

war could reinvent itself

as a prayer of silence

What Came Looking For Me

It was a whale-sized anchor,
eroded and stuffed inside a clamshell
forced down my throat
sinking in my saliva.

It was my uncle
chained to a Buick Skylark
eating a broken bottle
that shattered like my father’s eyes
at the sight of his son sleeping in the womb,
barbwire attaching me to my mother.

It looked like my grandma’s iron pot
boiling river water and collard greens,
and my calloused feet pacing a prison cell
with a wishing well adjacent to a metal bunk
with an elephant’s tusk that sliced away follicles
of my skin every time I tossed and turned.

It was my son with an afro and a mustache,
standing in a field of snow with flip-flops
and no gloves, holding a basketball and a bus ticket.

It happened the day Minneapolis died
and a black rainbow galloped across the sky
and me and my cousins chased it.