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


Manhattan is a Lenape Word

It is December and we must be brave.

The ambulance’s rose of light
blooming against the window.
Its single siren-cry: Help me.
A silk-red shadow unbolting like water
through the orchard of her thigh.

Her, come—in the green night, a lion.
I sleep her bees with my mouth of smoke,
dip honey with my hands stung sweet
on the darksome hive.
Out of the eater I eat. Meaning,
She is mine, colony.

The things I know aren’t easy:
I’m the only Native American
on the 8th floor of this hotel or any,
looking out any window
of a turn-of-the-century building
in Manhattan.

Manhattan is a Lenape word.
Even a watch must be wound.
How can a century or a heart turn
if nobody asks, Where have all
the natives gone?

If you are where you are, then where
are those who are not here? Not here.
Which is why in this city I have
many lovers. All my loves
are reparations loves.

What is loneliness if not unimaginable
light and measured in lumens—
an electric bill which must be paid,
a taxi cab floating across three lanes
with its lamp lit, gold in wanting.
At 2 a.m. everyone in New York City
is empty and asking for someone.

Again, the siren’s same wide note:
Help me. Meaning, I have a gift
and it is my body
, made two-handed
of gods and bronze.

She says, You make me feel
like lightning
. I say, I don’t ever
want to make you feel that white
.
It’s too late—I can’t stop seeing
her bones. I’m counting the carpals,
metacarpals of her hand inside me.

One bone, the lunate bone, is named
for its crescent outline. Lunatus. Luna.
Some nights she rises like that in me,
like trouble—a slow luminous flux.

The streetlamp beckons the lonely
coyote wandering West 29th Street
by offering its long wrist of light.
The coyote answers by lifting its head
and crying stars.

Somewhere far from New York City,
an American drone finds then loves
a body—the radiant nectar it seeks
through great darkness—makes
a candle-hour of it, and burns
gently along it, like American touch,
an unbearable heat.

The siren song returns in me,
I sing it across her throat: Am I
what I love? Is this the glittering world
I’ve been begging for?

 

Credit


From Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf Press, 2020) by Natalie Diaz. Copyright © 2020 by Natalie Diaz. Used with the permission of the Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, graywolfpress.org

Author


Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz’s most recent book is Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf Press, 2020). She is Director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands and is the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe, and lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Date Published: 2020-03-03

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/manhattan-lenape-word