Published on Academy of American Poets (

Iris Song

You go outside and the trees don’t know
You’re black. The lilacs will chatter and break
Themselves real bloom, real boon,
No matter your gender. You matter.
Who in you is most material, so
You matter. Your afro gone touch the sky.
Come up from the ground looking extra fly,
Come up from the ground looking extra, fly,
I will touch the sky. I—open my mouth,
And my whole life falls out.


Copyright © 2020 by Rickey Laurentiis. Originally published with the Shelter in Poems initiative on

About this Poem

“A function of racism, said Toni Morrison, distracts us not just from our lives’ work, but the natural world as well; distraction from either body expires that body, eventually. So this must end, now, unsentimentally, killed at the root. My admiration goes to the work of Rue Mappfounder of Outdoor Afro, which celebrates black connections and leadership in nature—if especially for her language, some of which inspired the poem. Readers might recognize lyrics from a younger Kanye West, his 2005 song ‘Touch the Sky’ also breathes in the text as anchor. When I think about this poem, all I think about is a former poem, ‘2019,’ the will of the trees, call-and-response, that tricky forest sprung up, ‘tactless and quiet,’ between the two.”
Rickey Laurentiis


Rickey Laurentiis

Rickey Laurentiis is the author of Boy with Thorn (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). They live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Date Published: 2020-09-09

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