Published on Academy of American Poets (

sonnet for the long second act

your body is still a miracle    thirst
quenched    with water across dry tongue and lips 
    or cocoa butter    ashy legs immersed
till shine seen    sheen    the mind too    cups and dips
from its favorite rivers    figures and facts
    slant stories of orbiting      protests or
protons    around daughters or suns  ::  it backs
up or opens wide to joy’s gush    downpour 
    the floods the heart pumps    hip hop    doo wop    dub
    veins mining the mud for poetry’s o
cell after cell drinks    ringgold colors       mulled 
    cool cascades of calla lilies  ::  swallow
and bathe    breathe    believe    through drought you survive 
    like the passage schooled you    till rains arrive

                        —after alexis pauline gumbs


Copyright © 2020 by Evie Shockley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 16, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem late this spring (2020), after teaching a semester-long course on the elegy in the African American tradition, during which events in the world made the poems more timely—and painfully so—than I had imagined they could be. At the same time, for other courses, I was reading and teaching Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ (also disconcertingly timely) book M Archive: After the End of the World. My sonnet attempts to leap from the encounter with her book back to the Black Poetry course, carrying with it my distillation of the balm I found there.”
Evie Shockley


Evie Shockley

Embracing both free verse and formal structures, Evie Shockley straddles the divide between traditional and experimental poetics.

Date Published: 2020-07-16

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