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Cecilia Llompart

Do Not Speak of the Dead

About this Poem 

“I began this poem while reading a book about the sordid history of the persecution of witches—which is really just another way of saying the persecution of women—and it continued to develop in light of the continued unrest and very necessary protests that have punctuated the past few months. It also serves as a kind of meditation on death and on crossing over and on loosening the grip of fear on our lives. Three days after I finished the poem, my grandfather passed away and my grandmother had a vision of a child taking him by the hand at the moment of his last breath.”
Cecilia Llompart

Do Not Speak of the Dead

Cecilia Llompart

 

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
—Mexican Proverb

I was born among the bodies. I was hurried
forward, and sealed a thin life for myself.

I have shortened my name, and walk with
a limp. I place pebbles in milk and offer

them to my children when there is nothing
else. We can not live on cold blood alone.

In a dream, I am ungendered, and the moon
is just the moon having a thought of itself.

I am a wolf masked in the scent of its prey
and I am driven—hawk like—to the dark

center of things. I have grasped my eager
heart in my own talons. I am made of fire,

and all fire passes through me. I am made
of smoke and all smoke passes through me.

Now the bodies are just calcified gravity,
built up and broken down over the years.

Somewhere there are phantoms having their
own funerals over and over again. The same

scene for centuries. The same moon rolling
down the gutter of the same sky. Somewhere

they place a door at the beginning of a field
and call it property. Somewhere, a tired man

won’t let go of his dead wife’s hand. God
is a performing artist working only with

light and stone. Death is just a child come to
take us by the hand, and lead us gently away.

Fear is the paralyzing agent, the viper that
swallows us living and whole. And the devil,

wears a crooked badge, multiplies everything
by three. You—my dark friend. And me.
 

Copyright © 2015 by Cecilia Llompart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Cecilia Llompart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

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Lemon Andersen reads on the High Line as part of “After Sunset: Poetry Walk," New York City, 2015.
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Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Maya Angelou
1978
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