Filtering by Category: POEM

SING

i don’t know who they are, but
they say if you want to
sing
sing. if you want to dance,
show me. the darker-bodied
world i come from doesn’t 

know how to name 
this desperate shuffle of feet
for anything.
more
than the percussion
of shame steady, i stay

steady in this pooling
of reverb. i don’t trust
your hands any more than
i trust the
watch my uncle
gifted me from the home-

land. have you ever run
your palms along the trunk
of an olive tree? we hail
from the same 
place. my father tells me
about the old country, and i don’t ask

where the songs went, 
when we were left
with just verses 
belted out 
to God. i haven’t seen
my cousins in 10 years, but i watched

a nation that wants to own my nation
slither a fist into a keffiyeh and call
my country “fashion”— this is the pelt 
i know. and i’ve learned 
them and those like
them to be the kind that steal

all the steps before the grave; cueing
all of the joy, none of the 
grief. i know you won’t keep
it, but if i tell
you a secret
will you believe

me? 
i danced along the spine of the shore,
built myself in the sand 
until the ocean
came for me.
i folded with the waves,

caught these hands held
up, and asked: what is the sun,
if not just the yolk
of the moon? or rather, what am i
in the dark if not just
a way to get

to you?
i heard them say that my people were 
bad, but we can’t be
that bad if 
mama still lets me in
after daybreak— the salty mess

of my pride baked into this
dress, her chuckling gently at
what is left of me.
do you know how i learned
to sing? i prayed;
burned verses into

my flesh, this patient garb.
i lost myself. i did
this until i forgot
what the cries meant.
i watched them 
spin

out of this chorus
of mouth. and still,
i asked, and still
God didn’t stop
me, didn’t
sing a word

This poem first appeared in Drunk in a Midnight Choir on September 15th, 2016. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here.

SEED

Always ready
            to give,
the men in my family know
anger like an open palm.

Last week, brother threw
a punch, & i decided
not to break him. Last night,
baba went in on
me: my lack of
            a job.
            a wife.
            a god.
i love
to tell him that they are one
in the same. When i meet my mother,
i talk to her like a man
talks to himself: full
            of another’s simmer
            slow & wayward
as we wait for
            our blood to dry,
            our fathers to call us home

 

 

This poem first appeared in Vinyl Poetry and Prose on July 20th, 2016. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here.

DANCE

A humble tongue never
got our people anywhere

but the back and get back. When
the moon walks, I see limbs: darker and

bedazzled. In the burnt test of heat before hello, I come
to know that there must be something holy

in the shade, especially
when the Earth just can’t stop

making it. Now, I'm not sure
of much when my people still see sexy

as a barefoot frolicking with the unmute of brown. Blur
a signature into sand after we call God

with our knees. Here, we tire from the heat
and where the desert takes us, and get, and get back

and dance, too. We dance so much that we did not
need the slacks, and so I stopped wearing them

around the women I didn't want to think
I was just some captured gaggle of limbs. So they let me dance

with them. And they sang, and
I only ever really remembered scripture

like a tear, a thing that leaves you after
you've already belted hurt, and finished

the bleed of the night. But whether she knows or not, the sun
takes me often, calmly pries the half-woken glimmer out

of the sand and the sandy-skinned— those with knees
pressed into the dimpled spine of the desert until the world knows

we are here.  Always been. And we know it, so why hide
in a mouth the sun doesn’t love—

everybody else does. And me and my brothers stay
wondering if God really needs a humble

sacrifice: this blood still tastes the same to me.
Always did.

 

 

This poem first appeared in Winter Tangerine on July 1st, 2016. It was a finalist in their 2016 Winter Tangerine Awards. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here.

 

WHISP

there are two ways to become
a man: kill one, or watch
enough boys that look like you
 
 
go.

 

 

This poem first appeared in The Offing Literary Magazine on June 29th, 2016. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here.

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MUSEUMS

Time is the greatest gift
one can ever offer, because it is
the only thing we cannot

take back. It is the same
reason I will not go
to war for a country

I cannot belong to.
I cannot be well-
versed in fast enough to

beckon the tongue to give.
& give lip— all split
and dry with new

breath in the morning. 
All I can offer
the land of my parents

is the promise

that its proper name will not be lost
on me. The curse of the diaspora is to
become a scholar: 
                    an urn for all
the instances their hands
were too small
for anything less
                    than ash.

Is there a word for it? That
sensation of inner lung
being coated by the dust

of another man’s wake. 
I might as well read:
palestine, phulisteen,
a severed realm

of artifacts, a museum
filled with too much
                         echo.

 

 

This poem first appeared in Voicemail Poems on April 8th, 2016. To view the poem as it originally appeared, visit the publication here.

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