Published on Academy of American Poets (

from “In the After”

a poem in/on progress

March, like the soldier, through the sonic insistence of breath

Breathe in the minute    in the minute    in the moment             breathe            breathe            breathe
Body rest            Body wrest away the rest, then breathe            breathe

Bodies arrested               Body rest            body wrested   body resting in/as recline
Body rest            b
ody wrested    bodies arrested (those who are loved)    body politic is/as de     cline

Body rest in each breath            in each breathe            in breathing
Body rests in each breath we take

Bodies rest in each breath taken by the body politic’s restless decline
Body rest in the sonic soothing of (y)our saying            a tongue tenderly tending

Body wrested from its resting in the sonic insistence of our isness
we move through by moving as an unmarshalled we

But if I love you what we are is of consequence each to the morning,
each to the afternoon, and to the evening’s retire

But if I love you, time is immeasureable and irrelevant. There is no easy
accounting of the train’s arrival, of the ship’s docking

But if I love you, you are not drawn as an easy other, conscripted
in the agonies of marketed and marketing brands

Arrival and its possibility are verdant present joys
Leaving and its possibilities are expansive desert joys

But if I love you, you are not me,
and we dance along our incongruous, broken roadways

But if I love you, I will love many in the multiple that I am and that I love


Copyright © 2021 by Tonya M. Foster. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 30, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem grew out of exhaustion and rage about the murders of Black people, about death and daily brutalities. It is meant as a sonic interrogation of how one goes on in an awareness of what is unbearable: breathe in, breathe out, inhale, exhale, and get busy. What is life in the ‘after’—the aftermath and the afterglow? I’m amazed at the assertion of, and the insistence on life and love even in the middle of the maelstrom.”
—Tonya M. Foster


Tonya M. Foster

Tonya M. Foster is a Black poet and the author of La Grammaire des Os (joca seria, 2016) and A Swarm of Bees in High Court (Belladonna*, 2015). The recipient of fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute, the New York Foundation of Arts, the Ford Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation, she is the George & Judy Marcus Chair in Poetry at San Francisco State University. She lives in West Oakland, on the unceded land of the Ohlone in the Confederated Villages of Lisjan.

Date Published: 2021-09-30

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