Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Urning

* bring us to dark knots the black
eyes along white aspen skin to scrape
with a rock on surface where I press
I carve the initials of all and **
*** bring us to a returning no
an urning a vessel of corpse
ash in the active state of being
held by two hands positioned
gripping the sides to tip
and scatter my night dream
of an acquaintance who
presented me a ledger opened
to a page handwritten in pencil
dates names and meetings ****
***** I said I don’t want to
see it I don’t want to know
if my father betrayed me
as the words left
my dream mouth I woke I shook
to the bone a hot line notched
from heart to elbow throbbing
vein-ache in my body how
I’d replaced another man’s name
-a man I once loved I mean to say-
with the word father in a flash
the sleeping eye ripped me
from denial I’m not so complex
see my mind unclothed
is a crying newborn
predictable
aspen leaves in untimed
wind-filled rhythm my mother
turned eighty what at that age is left
to surprise though
                                        suddenly

the tone here shifts to listen
she said I don’t know if I ever said
when I was pregnant with you
I found out he’d cheated
I threw ****** into the yard
I locked him out
pregnant with you I cried
and I cried so long and hard
I thought I was going to
die yes she said it a heavy bass line
beneath aspen music and timbre
I sit on the patio to smoke I think
at night always at night maybe
cause I was born / at night or
my name means night God bless
my mother she believed
my name meant pure
spirit so it may be the darkest
hours are when I’m purest
when I am I          I am fluid
a clear stream over rock or
*******
as poetry goes ********
I think about a baby in utero I can’t help
but wonder what the baby knows
a study says babies and toddlers
remember
through impression not specifics
I rummage the syllables and stress
of each line in *********
impression is a mark
on the surface
caused by pressure or
a quick undetailed sketch or
the imitation
of someone / I
carried her nine months
beneath my own skin her small toes
relaxed her eyes shut
within me her fingertips
pressed into palms she made
                                                                    a fist
                                                                    or was it

a symbol
for the Sun what rising
what of battle my child knows
scares me to the pure
the one I           I burn in question

 

*            may all the grief
**          may all
***        the loss
****                  all your misdeeds
*****                love of my soul
******              all his things
******* spit in a cup
********          night is a womb
*********        the definition

Credit


Copyright © 2018 by Layli Long Soldier. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“I am always trying to understand myself better. This poem is one of many poems I've written in that attempt. The seed for this poem came from a dream, which I consider one of the most surreal and truthful sources for writing.”
—Layli Long Soldier
 

Author


Layli Long Soldier

Layli Long Soldier is the author of WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017).

Date Published: 2018-01-11

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/urning