Published on Academy of American Poets (

A Memory

When they finished burying me, what was left of me
sent up a demand like a hand blooming in the fresh dirt:

When I’m back, I want a body like a slash of lightning.
If they heard me, I couldn’t hear their answers.

But silence has never stopped me from praying.
Alive, how many nights did I spend knelt between

the knees of gods and men begging for rain, rent,
and reasons to remain? A body like the sky seeking

justice. A body like light reaching right down into the field
where you thought you could hide from me.

They’ve taken their bald rose stems and black umbrellas
home now. They’ve cooked for one another, sung hymns

as if they didn’t prefer jazz. I’m just a memory now.
But history has never stopped me from praying.


Copyright © 2018 by Saeed Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I've been writing variations on the line ‘a body like a slash of lightning’ in my notebook for at least three years now. It was just an idea I kept returning to, trying to make work. There is a rage to the idea that I found difficult to shake. It kept calling to me like a memory that refused to be forgotten.”
—Saeed Jones


Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones is the author of Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press, 2014), a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry.

Date Published: 2018-06-28

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