in each hand a disparate dream: in all dreams another far
too quiet: delirium
of the mask and God behind it: paradise
had no winter like
is the one where the infant sleeps in the dirt
of a dreamless mind so far from home
he no longer resembles anyone:
his mother, thrown
down, hunted, sick
with fear, sleeps next to him among the filth of animals: his father
watches (the imperative
demands), for there is no room for another
sleeper: the desert will keep
bringing its mirage,
the child will walk in his shimmering garden, says
the wilderness, if you just get across:
motes in the light rise and rest:
sole face left (remember you are dust)
of our first lost image:
Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.
—Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
In a world of loss
gratitude is what
I demand for keeping
within my reach.
No one despises
the shepherd for
collecting his flock.
No one accuses
the watchman of
making a captive
of his charge.
I’m like a holster,
or sheath, all function
and no fury. Don’t
you worry as I
swallow you whole. Those
ulcers in my gut
are only windows,
the stoma punched
in my throat is just
a keyhole. Don’t be shy.
Hand me the rattle
of your aching heart
and I’ll cradle you,
bird with broken wing.
Let me love you. I
will hold your brittle
bones together. I’ll
unclasp your beak
so you can sing.
It’s a world of always
leaving but here
you can always stay.
This is the closest I could get to the stark reality of children separated from their families and kept in cages. I tried other ways into the subject, but it always rang false, especially the versions I tried writing in the point of view of a child. I realized that these children have their own voices. But we are not listening. So I wrote a persona poem in which the villain tries to obscure the travesty of incarceration of minors with seductive, gas-lighting language.
More than anything, I need this boy
so close to my ears, his questions
electric as honeybees in an acreage
of goldenrod and aster. And time where
we are, slow sugar in the veins
of white pine, rubbery mushrooms
cloistered at their feet. His tawny
listening at the water’s edge, shy
antlers in pooling green light, while
we consider fox prints etched in clay.
I need little black boys to be able to be
little black boys, whole salt water galaxies
in cotton and loudness—not fixed
in stunned suspension, episodes on hot
asphalt, waiting in the dazzling absence
of apology. I need this kid to stay mighty
and coltish, thundering alongside
other black kids, their wrestle and whoop,
the brightness of it—I need for the world
to bear it. And until it will, may the trees
kneel closer, while we sit in mineral hush,
together. May the boy whose dark eyes
are an echo of my father’s dark eyes,
and his father’s dark eyes, reach
with cupped hands into the braided
current. The boy, restless and lanky, the boy
for whom each moment endlessly opens,
for the attention he invests in the beetle’s
lacquered armor, each furrowed seed
or heartbeat, the boy who once told me
the world gives you second chances, the boy
tugging my arm, saying look, saying now.
Success is liking yourself,
liking what you do,
and liking how you do it.
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
–e e cummings