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Tiana Clark
Tiana Clark

800 Days: Libation

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 20, 2017.
About this Poem 

“For this elegy, my intent was to interrogate trauma through psychic negation coupled with a lack of punctuation. I wanted to look without looking at Black death caged by great violence and breathlessness. It’s a privilege to turn away from news that makes us uncomfortable; however, Ta-Nehisi Coates insists that ‘…all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this.’”
—Tiana Clark

800 Days: Libation

after not wanting to watch “Time: The Kalief Browder Story” on Spike TV

It rained inside me
it is raining inside my neck
the rain falls in sheets inside long sheets inside
all the rain is falling inside collapsing spit
I don’t want to watch another black man die
today or know the story of how he died today
or how he was thrown away or how he ended up
I don’t want to study the rain from inside
the house or overhear wild rain swell & thicken
slap the roof with wet words       & Kalief 
who was there when you stopped
being & who was there when you were alone
& beyond yourself     how
the water around you from the island around you
might have sounded like a chorus    who was there
who was there      who was there  & now everyone
is watching your life from inside but I’m afraid to watch
them beat you    watch torture throbbing dry & long
with ache & blue-black bruising                so I don’t
& another black body is blown out      smoking wick
the lone wisp of a life lingers smelling burnt & gone
how rain wraps round a tornado is a type of sorrow
because no one knows how to fathom damage inside
someone’s eyes could be the weather just after or before
a storm         calm & clear but still bleaker inside the black
parts of the pupils the holes smooth black holes in the eyes
as they left you in the hole with no rain      & I’m emptying
a waterfall shouting                       KALIEF
I want you to be undead & not alone      lonely in the ground  
again     I want I want (the “I” wants so much) how it greeds 
like a fist      of pounding rain on your body bleating broke
but what I want doesn’t matter what I want are rare blossoms
for the dead      because you’re gone & your mother is gone
all because someone said you stole a backpack meaning
your body was made a forgotten altar your body made bodiless
kept pushing back as your trial kept pushing back & back &
black matter moves backwards in time meaning    Kalief matters
in the past tense even though the space around your life didn’t
matter to them   or them   or them    like the space that scatters
& navigates around the circumference of raindrops is never wet
& the braided distance between you & me  is dry & long
like time is rainless with a tight & loaded lungful blowing 800
candles out for the 800 days in solitary your brain behind bars
fades your body in confinement your chest caged alone
your body alone   all    I     hear         is your name falling
& beating    Kalief      Kalief      Kalief Kalief Kalief
this is such a poor offering but I am pouring it on the ground
like good rain & whatever softens the earth is your name
whatever might grow from that darkening bright spot is your name
lapping little lakes of creation turning mud in your name
whatever might be fed from the liquid raining inside me
whatever might be loosened from the muck & the dark
rum pouring from my bottle    & Kalief    your name     is drizzling
a type of grief upon my mouth like mist as it reigns
inside me it is raining inside my body the rain falls in sheets
inside all the rain is untangled & not touching
who touched you with tenderness falling inside   
                                                                                          & Kalief  
what is there to say
after so much rain?

                                  The ground is swollen with your name…

Copyright © 2017 by Tiana Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Tiana Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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poem

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (Sonnet 18)

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
     So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
     So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
William Shakespeare
1609
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Acadia National Park
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America, I Sing Back

for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
2016
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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.

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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.  

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Gwendolyn Brooks: A Centennial Celebration

A Pulitzer Prize winner, an Academy Fellowship winner, and the first black woman appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, Gwendolyn Brooks was—and continues to be—an outstanding voice in the world of contemporary American poetry. Brooks, who was awarded countless literary honors in her lifetime, was known for writing poems that captured a cross-section of everyday life in her hometown of Chicago. In sonnets, ballads, epic poems, and more, Brooks captured the lives, speech, and perspectives of people as varied as those she encountered in her city, and was particularly known for her interrogation of race relations and class.

This year marks Brooks’s centennial, and to celebrate, we’ve created this new collection of essays, audio, and poems by and about Brooks.

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Ghazal: America the Beautiful

Do you remember our earnestness our sincerity
in first grade when we learned to sing America

The Beautiful along with the Star-Spangled Banner
and say the Pledge of Allegiance to America

We put our hands over our first grade hearts
we felt proud to be citizens of America

I said One Nation Invisible until corrected
maybe I was right about America

School days school days dear old Golden Rule Days
when we learned how to behave in America

What to wear, how to smoke, how to despise our parents
who didn’t understand us or America

Only later learning the Banner and the Beautiful
live on opposite sides of the street in America

Only later discovering the Nation is divisible
by money by power by color by gender by sex America

We comprehend it now this land is two lands
one triumphant bully one still hopeful America

Imagining amber waves of grain blowing in the wind
purple mountains and no homeless in America

Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
somehow or other still carried away by America

Alicia Ostriker
2016
AASL Best Website for Teaching & Learning
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We Real Cool

                   THE POOL PLAYERS. 
                   SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.



We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Gwendolyn Brooks
1960