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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, October 18, 2018.
About this Poem 

“I used to harshly judge two women who in my storytelling I called ‘The Women from Mars.’ It didn't take long, though, before I realized I was one of them. (Of course, I was!) So, I started to write as/with/through/alongside/about us. Visual artist Alisha Wormsley makes art that operates in what she calls the Fifth Dimension: where the past, present, and future coexist. Shout out to Alisha and shout out to complex narratives by and about Black women. This poem is one small piece of a larger story I'm telling.”
—Yona Harvey

Dark and Lovely After Take-Off (A Future)

Nobody straightens their hair anymore.
Space trips & limited air supplies will get you conscious quick.
 
My shea-buttered braids glow planetary
as I turn unconcerned, unburned by the pre-take-off bother.
 
“Leave it all behind,” my mother’d told me,
sweeping the last specs of copper thread from her front porch steps &
 
just as quick, she turned her back to me. Why
had she disappeared so suddenly behind that earthly door?
 
“Our people have made progress, but, perhaps,”
she’d said once, “not enough to guarantee safe voyage
 
to the Great Beyond,” beyond where Jesus
walked, rose, & ascended in the biblical tales that survived
 
above sprocket-punctured skylines &
desert-dusted runways jeweled with wrenches & sheet metal scraps.
 
She’d no doubt exhale with relief to know
ancient practice & belief died hard among the privileged, too.
 
Hundreds of missions passed & failed, but here
I was strapped in my seat, anticipating—what exactly?
 
Curved in prayer or remembrance of a hurt
so deep I couldn’t speak. Had that been me slammed to the ground, cuffed,
 
bulleted with pain as I danced with pain
I couldn’t shake loose, even as the cops aimed pistols at me,
 
my body & mind both disconnected
& connected & unable to freeze, though they shouted “freeze!”
 
like actors did on bad television.
They’d watched & thought they recognized me, generic or bland,
 
without my mother weeping like Mary,
Ruby, Idella, Geneava, or Ester stunned with a grief
 
our own countrymen refused to see, to
acknowledge or cease initiating, instigating, &
 
even mocking in the social networks,
ignorant frays bent and twisted like our DNA denied
 
but thriving and evident nonetheless—
You better believe the last things I saw when far off lifted
 
were Africa Africa Africa 
Africa Africa Africa Africa Africa...
 
& though it pained me to say it sooner:
the unmistakable absence of the Great Barrier Reef.

Copyright © 2018 by Yona Harvey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Yona Harvey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Yona Harvey

Yona Harvey

Yona Harvey is the author of the poetry collection, Hemming the Water (Four Way Books, 2013) and a coauthor of Marvel's Black Panther and the Crew (2017) and World of Wakanda (Marvel, 2016).

by this poet

poem
I hesitate invoking that
my daughter's mouth
not her first vanity
she tastes & smoothes
her chin this way & that,
bones replacing the fallen. 
it repairs itself: two
   forming new words:
poem

Your black coat is a door
in the storm. The snow
we don’t mention
clings to your boots & powders
& puffs. & poof. Goes.
Dust of the fallen. Right here
at home. The ache
of someone gone-missing. Walk it off
like a misspoken word.
Mound of snow. Closed door.

poem

Four tickets left, I let her go—
Firstborn into a hurricane.

I thought she escaped
The floodwaters. No—but her

Head is empty of the drowned
For now—though she took

Her first breath below sea level.
Ahhh       awe       &       aw
Mama, let me go—she speaks

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