Published on Academy of American Poets (

The moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings.

I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs

and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead

on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow

feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.

I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot

feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls

skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.

To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white

petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am

in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.


Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Often, I am thinking of how I can ground love—feeling it, being in it—and being present in my body and in joy, in my work. These moves feel so urgent to me as a black lesbian in this political and cultural moment, where the news each day seems to argue against my and my loved ones’ humanity.”
—Donika Kelly


Donika Kelly

Donika Kelly is the author of The Renunciations (Graywolf Press, 2021). She is an assistant professor in the English department at the University of Iowa.

Date Published: 2017-11-20

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