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


I Wanted to Place an Ocean

I tell my uncle’s ghost

don’t waste your time haunting white folks who owe you money,

I try to give him my body, but he won’t take it,
                                                and pulls his wagon on.

I began in fields near pines where we laughed and fried fish.
                               If someone were to sing,

it would grow through each ghost

                               and be heard as geese crossing overhead.

The dead know
                     the work they have done,
 

and if they are not careful their hands

will stay in the shape of that work.
 

My hands haven’t touched cotton or tobacco,

I haven’t pulled small green worms
 

or carried them inside with me hidden in the body’s doublings.
 

I only was a child in harvested fields,

when my people let the cotton sleep there were no vacations,

the fields of Rolesville belong to my kinfolk, dead and alive

and I don’t know if my great-grandparents ever saw the ocean

                                                   or fell asleep on the beach.

Credit


Copyright © 2020 Tyree Daye. From Cardinal (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). Used with permission of the author and Copper Canyon Press (coppercanyonpress.org)

Author


Tyree Daye

Tyree Daye is the author of Cardinal (Copper Canyon Press, 2020).

Date Published: 2020-10-06

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/i-wanted-place-ocean