Academy of American Poets Prize, 2017
by Ariana Yeatts-Lonske
Take me to the field of your childhood and bring a blanket,
a carton of strawberries, the story of your first kiss, and I will bring Whitman
and he will ask each blade of grass, gently, what it is,
and listen, and then say, yes, yes, and look at you
Play me the song you listen to before sleep, and I will slip
a quarter into the jukebox of the world. The wind on your face,
our brook sliding over rocks, a traffic jam, Mars flushing above—
all thrum with those opening chords.
Tell me about your gods and I will take them
as my own—I have enough hands, enough eyes, heart.
Worship the sun as it sets, and I will raise my voice.
Point to your favorite constellation and I will remake myth
so you are the bear and the spoon, the bull and the lyre.
Tell me what instrument you play and I will show you
how even the rare fiddle of my body can be taken out of its case
if it is your hands that open.
You know this. I already know your gods, your songs.
We have laid in that field—and will.
Still—tell me the worst name anyone has called you,
once so softly I can’t hear and just once more so I can.
I can’t rename you, the boy slumped against the window
of the middle school bus, so I will go to the brook now
and rename every fish I see. I will rename every fish I ever meet love
and they will glisten down rivers and streams, they will leap
through canal locks and channels and drift into bays.
And someday, in 20 years, you will be sitting beside a lake
and look out at the water, and deep below the surface,
there will be only creatures named love—
half-asleep, half-dead, being born, feeding, swimming,
doing all that they know how to do for you, and you—