Published on Academy of American Poets (

st. croix mornings

the beach at sunrise

raises its skirts

like a drunken pigeon


i raise my eyes awake

behind armored gates

somewhere deep in frederiksted

inside dark rooms

that shroud my skin

in the colors

of an evening gone bad


bluest black

rinsed indigo

uncensored red


dark nameless woman

washed ashore

skin seared

like an eclipse

out of season


warm water

nips under my


seeps into my skin


and the ocean whispers


stay close

stay close


i strut red feathers like a pagan god

open my house boldly

invite sun and waves to crush my wings

rape this serenity


bluest black

rinsed indigo

uncensored red


i surrender

to the messages in the sky

on the waves



i eat my own blood

reach quietly inside the water

gather all of me

alongside myself


and the ocean whispers


stay close

stay close


an earlier version

of sunrise

teases the curtains

teases the whiteness of sheets

that gather around my ankles

that remind my feet to breathe


an earlier version

of sunrise

sits cross-legged

holds thunder

captive under skirts


that deny

full moons

that deny

seasons  of fire

thy deny

births and names 


st croix mornings

gaze back at me

through the eyes

of my daughter

remind me

of other madnesses

other unnamed seeds


the madness of the sky

the madness of a woman

who refuses to


stay close

stay close


From Breath of the Song: New and Selected Poems (Carolina Wren Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Jaki Shelton Green. Used with the permission of the poet.


Jaki Shelton Green

Jaki Shelton Green is the author of eight collections, most recently I Want to Undie You (Jacar Press, 2017). In 2019, Green was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. She currently teaches documentary poetry at Duke University Center for Documentary Studies and serves as the poet laureate of North Carolina.

Date Published: 2005-07-30

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