Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Childhood (Alix)


The sun was always strong in summertime. It came down from the sky heavy with moisture, putting tan on our backs like a painter wills his canvas ochre. Skin would peel and flake or just dry out until the thunder came to shake it off. Summertime was languid with renewal and surrender: molting in the sticky heat of our ancestors, recast in the climate that forged us deep within the kiln of the african diaspora.

Summer was an overwhelmingly pleasant season, even when we had to keep water bottles strapped to our sticky hips and moist towels under our caps. Our winters were cold in an intentionally malicious way. It was always personal, the way the snow occluded windows and buried cars: a white blanket from heaven, as if God didn’t want to look at us anymore. The sun would shrink in the sky, shriveling like a grape left too long on the vine. Maybe it was tired, too, and needed some time of its own.

During the cold months, people stayed in their houses and said very little to each other. It was as if the snow had snipped the phone lines out of spite, filling the space between our mouths and ears with impenetrable white. Winter, in our minds, didn’t want us to be happy at all. Our words lay burning in our lungs as our hearts went into hibernation. They fed our loneliness, sucking at us from the inside, pulling at our muscles and skin until the shells that surrounded them were wasted and pale.

When spring came we were Israelites reaching the promised land. Finally could the yoke of sorrow be cast off; finally were we free from ice’s enslavement. The rain would come hard and drown our jubilation but still we rejoiced. It cleansed each person of winter’s sad dust, built up in thick layers as the snow swallowed us whole. Almost inevitably, we would lose electricity and tree branches and the occasional pet, but even calamities were gifts in springtime. When the storms broke, the sun would come back after its long abandonment, accepting us as its children again.

In summertime, you looked at me from your pool chair and smiled behind your sunglasses. You told me I had an old soul and I misunderstood. I have skin baked blond by a thousand summer suns and hands cut from the same snow drifts that broke my spirit. I have words thawing deep in my stomach that may never be heard or listened to, and a pride that bursts like heat lightening in springtime. I have lived each second of my parents' and grandparents' lives in their wrinkles and cataracts. I know that winter always comes, and always leaves hair grey. My bones are as old as the universe: billions of atoms from the beginning of time dancing through eons to pause in ivory, but my soul is renewed with each sunrise.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Elegy (Meghan)


for words.
Leapfrogs after rain,
tension in their springy legs
make me remember, but
it’s not the same.

Summer is a sweaty time.
My face forgets to second guess
its closeness.  I want to speak
crime into you.
I want to run.

The last time was different.
I believe in resurrection.
In reincarnation, they are redwood bark,
alive to feel the smear of my ashes,
the knife cut of his name.

He crafts the sound of my sighs
without scissors and glue.
It’s the elegance
of silence, this black crepe dress,
my head bowed at the headstone.
We look up.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Symbiosis (Emmie and Davina)

This poem is a spoken word duet and is formatted to reflect that in its written form: the left- and right-aligned stanzas are delivered by different speakers and center-aligned parts are delivered together, in unison.


looks like so many smiles and inside jokes,
so many presents and random notes
that it’s easy to forget how exactly love came to burn at the center -

Love, like the symbiosis of
the clownfish and the anemone,
protection in one hand and refuge in the other;
Like the hummingbird and the violet-speckled desert willow,
sharing sweetness and growing together to maturity;
Like the oxpecker and the rhinoceros:
She gets the ticks out of my hair.
She gives me food.

Love - of laughter is what started it for us,
the bones of what we were,
the first beams that held us together across the water,
a shaky construction as wobbly and as hopeful
as a baby’s first step.
Then we took this skeleton bridge and
strung its empty steel frame with
memories and understanding -
cold wet sidewalks in D.C.,
two of us huddled under one umbrella in the rain;
singing by the train tracks,
barefoot with summer grass kissing our ankles
writing poetry between classes,
curled up together on a little green couch -
each of these supporting the next until our bridge was strong enough
to bear the weight of our convictions and confessions,
our sorrows and our joy.

Now sometimes our thoughts run like the cables
between our bridge’s towers,
starting here
and stopping here,
running parallel the whole way.
I say “bird,” you think
“brid”, which is a
messed-up spelling we really like, similar to
our messed-up spelling of omg, which is
“mgo", which as we all know is the chemical formula for

magnesium oxide!
Sometimes it works like that.
Other times it's all tangled yarn instead
and we have to patiently work the knotted strands apart,
remembering that each thread leads back to a different skein
but we're being knit together
by hands greater than ours,

and this is the cord that binds our souls,
the reason that we can say sisters,
a loyalty greater than any bond
even the most beloved memories could cultivate:
we, once walking with eyes and mouths full of death,
have been born into the same new identity.
Alive in Christ Jesus,
the sinner’s Savior and the sinner’s Friend.
So in the reality and vitality of this freedom,
there will be no pretense between us.
There will be no masquerade of whitewashed perfection.
I see the dark stains of sin that course through your veins
and you see mine, but we also know the complete cleansing
that has come to both of us.
Filthy and spotless all at once, together
we will slowly work
to chisel the dirt away, God's Spirit in our eyes
and His Word in our mouths.

Love, we know, is in that healing pain of iron against iron,
the insistent convergence of hearts that can manifest
in whispers or in cacophony,
that never gives up
no matter how it hurts to scrape the dullness from our edges
till we are the true strokes of a balanced knife,
the faithful wounds of a tapered arrowhead,
the clean, straight lines of a well-sharpened plow.

Know this:
when the world strips away all that you have,
everything that is mine will be yours--
but it is His body and His wings that will be
your greatest protection and your refuge.
As we go through this life I will hold your hand tight
and pull you back when you seek to stray,
reminding you always of our destination even when the words
are old weariness upon your tired ears.
I will set my face east with you every day,
and we will run towards the risen Son,
shoulder to shoulder all the way.

On the mountains I will bottle the rays of morning light
that shake the forests with their glory,
and I'll carve the landscapes of our home into pebbles
that I'll drop in your pocket,
so when you go through the desert I'll make you drink
the memory of his faithfulness, and when it's too dark to see,
I'll make you grip those stones tight,
so that truth and hope are pressed against your palms
and you remember, and keep on, keep on,
my sister,

our souls are knitted together in laughter, love,
and the blood of our perfect Savior,
so run with me until we reach that place where we belong,
where we’ll see His face and be satisfied,
standing there

Character (Meghan)


I thought you’d wear glasses like Buddy Holly,
collect vintage corkscrews and Hemingway,
and we’d argue about Ernest until I admit
it’s been too long since I’ve tried his fiction,
until you point out that my diction in straight, pregnant
lines could be compared to his.
I’d find you typing at my antique table
an early Sunday morning and know you’d had another
vision, that architecture was building gargoyles
through your finger conduits for characters speaking
words you think you’ll say to me later
when your mind is quiet and we are alone.
And I’d make coffee and write beside you
because I want the muse back, too, because
experience taught me to love what you’ve written
without even spying over your shoulder.
You hate it, but you let me do it anyway because
you’ve heard the collaboration diatribe
and secretly believe I’m right, but most of all because
you like the warmth of my ribcage resting on your shoulder
better than the wistful expression you can’t quite read
as well as the paragraph I asked you to repeat
while I listened like a poet to a short not yet a story.
I thought I’d feel alone sometimes.
I thought you’d feel alone sometimes.
I thought we’d laugh easily,
that we’d hold hands in hospital beds
when it all comes to that.
We’d save our pennies to buy the moon,
pretending on clear nights it is already ours.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Here their name is history
their pasts are bright red battle scars
forged in stone and erected as a monuments.
Hymns of never forget float from their lips
quick off their tongues, quicker than hello,
because forgetting is worse than goodbye for now
forgetting is goodbye forever.
Those days the sky bled black into the sea,
a sea that crashed with mighty metal waves
that bore the enemy onto shore.
Here the only breeze is whispered myth
carried down from the hills over bombed-out houses
trembling in the ears of the people
who will never say goodbye.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Purge (Alix)

Heavy eyes gaze out across the sea
the harbor nears, people hold each other close,
their whispers and cries steam up from decks 
slick with rain, sweat, and tears. 
What promised land is this?
Where rocks reach from shore to hull
grappling with the iron to bring the vessel down
and waves sing a funeral dirge against the metal walls. 
What home could this cold harbor be?
To the souls bereaved by wind and weather,
this ship's precious cargo?
Heavy hearts set out across the sea
to a harbor far away, holding memories close
whispered memories of a past
they'll never see again.