Voyage (NaPoMo 11)

Soon, you will launch your coracle
to carry a single candle-flame
into a hurricane. Your blindness is a mercy:
you cannot see the piling blue-grey thunderheads
conspiring beyond the planet’s curve, and so-
or, both knowing you and praying, still-
you trust your Navigator, and therefore
so must I. So while the sun-days last,
while the biggest waves that rock you
are only cradle-touches, I
will make myself your prudent deck-hand,
stock your craft with all that may, in time,
be needed for your errand in the dark.

O dear one, Lucy’s bravest daughter,
I do not know what gales may rage against you
or how the lion’s breath may roar
seeking to devour your candle-light.
I know only that when the darkness is complete,
the smallest light is piercing.


Exposure (NaPoMo 9)

She lays herself out
on the stone, showing
her belly, her thighs:
See me, she cries
to a billion inert ties,
and the shutter sound plays
a arms’ length away
through the tremulous space
of an absent embrace.

This is my body.
I give it for you.

She peers down at her belly,
folds over the skin
she thinks she will pierce,
to imagine the glint
that could catch the sun
in her selfie.

For you, I was pierced.
I poured out my self.

She tugs at her hems,
rolls up her cuffs,
to worship the sun
with each inch of herself,
hoping it might be enough.

Let me be enough.

War Cry (NaPoMo 7)

Don’t touch.

I am this body
and you do not own it.
This is my body
and you have no rights to it.

Don’t tell me
my hair would look pretty this way.

Don’t say
don’t worry, it’s fine, you’re not gay.

Don’t tell me
you love my x, y, and z.

Don’t say
you only meant to compliment me.

That is your body,
your responsibility.
You are that body;
what are you gonna be?

Hands up.

Talitha Rising (NaPoMo 5)

The sparrow lays haphazard nests, bundling herself
into the hostile places: concrete edges, cracks in masonry,
the unregarded rusty backs and undersides of things,
wherever man has left his mark but has not left his love.

From these rag-tag scraps of homes, she watches, keeping vigil,
until rising to an instinct born of faith, not observation,
she faces down the dark to declare the coming dawn,
shattering the silence with her one sharp chirp.

Blast Radius (NaPoMo 4)

You ran up to me today,
waved me in, whispered for me,
called me close, leaned in,
and shouted at me: BOOM.

You were born with a pressure in you,
a drumbeat that itches and drives you to dance.
All the routes you take are parkour courses.
All the shoes you own are running shoes.

You sprint like a robber through the junkyard of your journal,
surfing jagged waves of the trash-compacted letters,
blocks of story crammed together in the fury of creation,
top to bottom, edge to edge, not a break, not a breath,
scribbling with the pinhole-skinny focus of the genius,
single-minded agonizing rapid manic joy.

You have seen the pool of life and reckoned
that the only worthwhile way of getting in
is to cannonball from 15 meters up. 

Almost Almost (NaPoMo 3)

But it’s almost

almost time, you plead,

pushing and pulling the painted bars

between you and the parking lot,

pressing your sleepy black curls out

toward the light, the noise, the world.
But all the chances you look past

chasing what is sure to come soon enough

during the almost


Dunkelvolk (NaPoMo 2)

Can you read it?

from the German on your T-shirt from Peru

Can you read it?

in the silence that you keep tucked in close around you

Can you read it?

in the bones that you flash when I tell you
Dark folk

Black people

Dark people

Black People

Can you read it?

in your focus as the bodies hit the water

Can you read it?

as the naming of the monsters gave you power

Can you read it?

in the pride, in the joy when you discover
Dark folk

Black people

Dark people

Black People


#ILA15 Day 1

It’s my first year at ILA.  It’s… a lot to take in.  There are people, noises, events everywhere, all the time.

So I ran out for coffee, because I hadn’t had my second dose, and was so overwhelmed I forgot to put in cream and sugar.  I had to go back into Starbucks. And on my way out, I walked into Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne.

I was a total dork because they are my among my teaching heroes and their work is totally transforming my school.  But Teri gave me an excellent piece of advice, seconded by Donalyn: Don’t go to the things you think you should go to. Go to the things you want to go to. This is your conference.

I took their advice and changed my next session.  Instead of the vocabulary strategy session I had scheduled, I went to one about poetry.

They were right. That was so much better.  Georgia Heard and Penny Kittle showed how they use craft in the service of the heart.

Georgia did a quick write with us, based on a poem titled “You Can’t Have It All”, but whose stanzas listed what the poet could have. We wrote for a minute, maybe two.  With my Dominican garden on my mind, I scribbled:

You can have tomatoes from a field
in a country not your own
and one fat sunflower to tether them to.

Then Georgia gave a few people the opportunity to share.  I half-raised my hand. Then I didn’t raise my hand. Then I raised my hand.  And an actual poet handed me a mic.

About five minutes later I had a slow, controlled panic attack.  I had just read something in front of a bunch of people who knew a whole lot more than me, were way more qualified than me, much better educated than me.

But in that moment, the other, more reasonable half of my mind said, “But did you hear what happened when you finished?”

Because the room whispered, “Ah.”

Well, there’s the power of an authentic audience.  Self-doubt was really close to swallowing me right there.  It was the reaction of the audience, those people who, for five seconds, were connected with my words, that buoyed me up.  They listened. They felt with me my split feelings for my two countries.  And in one sigh, they let me know I was heard.