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Lauren K. Alleyne
Lauren K. Alleyne

Variations in Blue

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 24, 2018.
About this Poem 

“This poem emerged as a result of a conversation I had with poet Frank X Walker, which I included as an epigraph. I'm from the island of Trinidad and Tobago—a place populated mostly by black people and surrounded by water, and while not everyone knows how to swim, the water was such a defining feature of my ‘coming up’—so my first response to his comment was incredulity. And then a sharp confrontation with the contrasts of growing up as a black person outside of the American context and choosing now to live within it. For days that conversation stayed with me: it triggered memory, history, and outrage about current events, specifically the image of Dajerria Becton pinned beneath a police officer in Texas for trying to use the pool. This all, of course, sent me to the page, and this poem resulted.”
Lauren K. Alleyne

Variations in Blue

           For Frank X Walker

FXW: I don’t know how to swim
Me: What?!
FXW: There were no pools for Black Folk when I was coming up


In sleep’s 3-D theatre: home, 
a green island surrounded
by the blue of ocean. Zoom
to the heart, see the Couva
swimming pool filled with us
—black children shrieking
our joy in a haze of sun; our life-
guard, Rodney, his skin flawless
and gleaming—black as fresh oil
—his strut along the pool’s edge,
his swoonworthy smile; Daddy
a beach-ball-bellied Poseidon,
droplets diamonding his afro;
my brother, hollering as he jumps
into his bright blue fear, his return
to air gasping and triumphant.
And there, the girl I was: dumpling
thick and sun-brown, stripped
down to the red two-piece suit
my mother had made by hand,
afloat in the blue bed of water,
the blue sky beaming above.
When I wake up, I’m in America
where Dorothy Dandridge
once emptied a pool with her pinkie,
and in Texas a black girl’s body
draped in its hopeful, tasseled bikini,
struck earth instead of water,
a policeman’s blue-clad knees
pinning her back, her indigo wail
a siren. I want this to be a dream,
but I am awake and in this place
where the only blue named home
is a song and we are meant to sink,
to sputter, to drown.

Copyright © 2018 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Poetry and the Creative Mind
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collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

poem

These Poems

These poems
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
and
are you ready?

These words
they are stones in the water
running away

These skeletal lines
they are desperate arms for my longing and love.

I am a stranger
learning to worship the strangers
around me

whoever you are
whoever I may become.

June Jordan
2017
poem

Always on the Train

Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.
Nothing but the horizon to stop you.

But consider the railroad's edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.
What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.

Trash is so cheerful; flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,
squares of clear plastic—windows on a house of air.

Below the weedy edge in last year's mat,
red and silver beer cans.
In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.
Ruth Stone
2003
Acadia National Park. Courtesy of the National Park Service
poem

Like You

translated by Jack Hirschman

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.

I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
love,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.


Como Tú

Yo, como tu,
amo el amor, la vida, el dulce encanto
de las cosas, el paisaje
celeste de los días de enero.

También mi sangre bulle
y río por los ojos
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas.

Creo que el mundo es bello,
que la poesía es como el pan, de todos.

Y que mis venas no terminan en mí
sino en la sange unánime
de los que luchan por la vida,
el amor,
las cosas,
el paisaje y el pan,
la poesía de todos.

Roque Dalton
2018
collection

A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

AASL Best Website for Teaching & Learning
poem

Poetry Is a Destructive Force

That's what misery is,
Nothing to have at heart. 
It is to have or nothing. 

It is a thing to have, 
A lion, an ox in his breast, 
To feel it breathing there.
 
Corazon, stout dog, 
Young ox, bow-legged bear, 
He tastes its blood, not spit. 

He is like a man 
In the body of a violent beast. 
Its muscles are his own . . .

The lion sleeps in the sun. 
Its nose is on its paws. 
It can kill a man. 
Wallace Stevens
1980
Spring–Summer 2018 issue of American Poets
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Lesson Plans for Introducing Poetry

Bring poems into the classroom with these lesson plans, which are especially suited to introducing students to poetry and helping them become engaged and thoughtful readers.