never had, never been

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Personae Poem
Nikki Giovanni
I am always lonely
for things I’ve never had
and people I’ve never been

But I’m not really
sad
because you once said
Come
and I did
even though I don’t like
you

more… and we give it

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The Weighing
Jane Hirshfield
The heart’s reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.

this and every room

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Sex or Sleep or Silk
Tarfia Faizullah
You are the night
that is sometimes
a highway, fields
blurred by speed
in which wild lives
don’t stop glowering.
What is meant by
the word recovery?
Aftermath is red dirt,
red dirt, red dirt and you
are creases of crickets
thicketing corners
of this and every room
I decide that I am
safe. You are still
below ground,
an infinite autumn.
I am the flaunting
of this flesh that eats,
fucks, bathes, waits—
I’m done cataloguing
loss. I’ll sand glossy
the corners of rib-
cages that I empty,
that empty me. I will
spur my skin into sex
or sleep or silk.
Your dresses still
hang in a closet
unworn and untouched.
So what if I am
phantom-bruise, torn
tether, feral orphan?
I’m telling you now, I
am never going to die.

fog report

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Fog Report
Audre Lorde

In this misty place where hunger finds us
seeking direction
I am too close to you to be useful.
When I speak
the smell of love on my breath
distracts you
and it is easier for me
to move
against myself in you
than to solve my own equations.

I am often misled
by your familiar comforts
the shape of your teeth is written
into my palm like a second lifeline
when I am fingerprinted
the taste of your thighs
shows up
outlined in the ink.
They found me wandering at the edge
of a cliff
beside nightmares of your body
“Give us your name and place of birth
and we will show you the way home.”

I am tempted
to take you apart
and reconstruct your orifices
your tongue your truths your fleshy altars
into my own forgotten image
so when this fog lifts
I could be sure to find you
tethered like a goat
in my heart’s yard.

an octave away

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Heaven
Cathy Song
He thinks when we die we’ll go to China.
Think of it—a Chinese heaven
where, except for his blond hair,
the part that belongs to his father,
everyone will look like him.
China, that blue flower on the map,
bluer than the sea
his hand must span like a bridge
to reach it.
An octave away.

I’ve never seen it.
It’s as if I can’t sing that far.
But look—
on the map, this black dot.
Here is where we live,
on the pancake plains
just east of the Rockies,
on the other side of the clouds.
A mile above the sea,
the air is so thin, you can starve on it.
No bamboo trees
but the alpine equivalent,
reedy aspen with light, fluttering leaves.
Did a boy in Guangzhou dream of this
as his last stop?

I’ve heard the trains at night
whistling past our yards,
what we’ve come to own,
the broken fences, the whiny dog, the rattletrap cars.
It’s still the wild west,
mean and grubby,
the shootouts and fistfights in the back alley.
With my son the dreamer
and my daughter, who is too young to walk,
I’ve sat in this spot
and wondered why here?
Why in this short life,
this town, this creek they call a river?

He had never planned to stay,
the boy who helped to build
the railroads for a dollar a day.
He had always meant to go back.
When did he finally know
that each mile of track led him further away,
that he would die in his sleep,
dispossessed,
having seen Gold Mountain,
the icy wind tunneling through it,
these landlocked, makeshift ghost towns?

It must be in the blood,
this notion of returning.
It skipped two generations, lay fallow,
the garden an unmarked grave.
On a spring sweater day
it’s as if we remember him.
I call to the children.
We can see the mountains
shimmering blue above the air.
If you look really hard
says my son the dreamer,
leaning out from the laundry’s rigging,
the work shirts fluttering like sails,
you can see all the way to heaven.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash