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Lauren K. Alleyne

Lauren K. Alleyne is the author of Difficult Fruit (Peepal Tree Press, 2014) and Honeyfish, which received the 2018 Green Rose Prize and is forthcoming in 2019 from New Issues Poetry & Prose. Alleyne is currently assistant director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and an associate professor of English at James Madison University. She lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Lauren K. Alleyne
Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

By This Poet

1

Variations in Blue

           For Frank X Walker

FXW: I don’t know how to swim
Me: What?!
FXW: There were no pools for Black Folk when I was coming up


In sleep’s 3-D theatre: home, 
a green island surrounded
by the blue of ocean. Zoom
to the heart, see the Couva
swimming pool filled with us
—black children shrieking
our joy in a haze of sun; our life-
guard, Rodney, his skin flawless
and gleaming—black as fresh oil
—his strut along the pool’s edge,
his swoonworthy smile; Daddy
a beach-ball-bellied Poseidon,
droplets diamonding his afro;
my brother, hollering as he jumps
into his bright blue fear, his return
to air gasping and triumphant.
And there, the girl I was: dumpling
thick and sun-brown, stripped
down to the red two-piece suit
my mother had made by hand,
afloat in the blue bed of water,
the blue sky beaming above.
When I wake up, I’m in America
where Dorothy Dandridge
once emptied a pool with her pinkie,
and in Texas a black girl’s body
draped in its hopeful, tasseled bikini,
struck earth instead of water,
a policeman’s blue-clad knees
pinning her back, her indigo wail
a siren. I want this to be a dream,
but I am awake and in this place
where the only blue named home
is a song and we are meant to sink,
to sputter, to drown.