For Ema (reprise 2012)



you come from a long line
of against all odds.

You were conceived in your grandparents’ bed
in our old, and tired country,


It was years after wars had ceased to be fought
but wounds still oozed the rust of thick, mad blood,
making our people, more than ever,
suspicious of kindness.

That winter
your father and I took a brief flight back,
stirred by the grief in the mouth
of a language we’ve lost.

It was a purple cold, and bitter.
The kind the body never forgets.

The first night in that worn apartment
there was no electricity or heat.

Your grandparents,
silhouetted in grey by the empty moon
spoke softly into the room’s blindness
with the voices of saints who had seen,
and forgiven everything.

Your father and I went to bed early.

Our limbs fought all night long
against the current of sore memories
until we sparked; like stone
striking against stone, causing the heat
to burst into light.

We rested content in the curious illumination;
felt the heat unravel from our souls
and cocoon into you.

By the time I flew back to America
my womb was the size of a grapefruit.

Rare and precious seed,
I smuggled you through US customs,
carefully tucked in the pink folds of my flesh.

In the lime tile bathroom
of our fist size home in Georgia,
I waited a three-minute eternity
for the results of a pregnancy test;

I spoke a “slam poem” to my image in the mirror,
praying for your scarlet thread to appear
in the lonely, plastic window.

When it did, I believed in God and grace.

My heart flickered like a buzzing neon;
light rushed through my bones like forgiveness.

When I first felt you,
you moved a silver river joyous,
a flesh and blood poem woven in two tongues,
with nothing lacking in context,
and no language barriers to overcome.

Daughter of mine,

tenacious odd-breaker, sudden daylight,
I pray you live a life of words well kept.

Earn a name that is not misspoken.
Give until there is nothing left.

Love all souls the same,
and owe nothing to none.

Smile to the ones with unknown topographies of tongue,
pilgrims and strangers in a world unworthy of them.

They are your first country.

Never despise their robust hands and honest sweat;
do not forget, they are all citizens of the womb.

Speak up for who doesn’t speak English.
Stand up for the weak in the playground.

To the widow be a daughter.To the orphan be a sister.
May your anger be barren and your grace abound.

Pray when you lack wisdom.
Sing when you are afraid.

Love at all costs.

Listen to prophets and poets.
Let books blaze your way to the truth.

Open the door when God knocks on your heart.
When in doubt, His blood will lead you home.
Trust in the kindness of the Unknown.

Live for what matters.

Die for what is right.

Be a poem all will know by heart
even long after you are gone;

a life resonating like a sustained note;
the hum buzz of your heart’s neon
still echoing in what you have touched,

the scarlet thread, still flashing
in your children’s window after every storm,

and against all odds.


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