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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, August 1, 2018.
About this Poem 

“Inspired by a recent trip to Senegal and by my Pentecostal upbringing in Daytona Beach, Florida, ‘Sea Sonnet: Dakar, 2018’ is meant to evoke the tide, going out and returning like memory. I’m interested in the ways ritual and meaning travel, in language as vehicle. The poem attempts a written glossolalia, and includes a snippet of a gospel song I grew up singing in church, a section I remember for its syncopated rhythm. This poem is intended to be read both down the page and back up again.”
—Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Sea Sonnet: Dakar, 2018

I begged for tongues the way that I was taught—:
hanala si ke andana—: whispered close.
Was this the Holy Spirit that I sought?—:
Bashful tongue drawing silence from my throat.
Trinity lesson, clicked behind my teeth,
Welling like memory I stood to receive
There at the altar. Blood that flowed beneath
Scripture an ocean gave me to believe.
Atlantic, how you sing to me my own!
Rhythm of roar and stillness, treasured still,
Hushed in my marrow ] shut up in my bones! [
Less like a fire than crash and salt of will
Preserving as the sunset breathes the sky,
Parsing the wave’s lip pressed into a sigh....

Copyright © 2018 by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of ] Open Interval [ (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009).

by this poet

poem
He still exists as flesh; it's the idea
that's dissipated—: husband :—what was he?
But a word I loved? There is no panacea
for missing syllables: his body: we
all know what matter's mostly made of—: space
obtains—: One day I realized I beleive—: 
the space in everything is God: that force
of present absence: pen
poem
The actors mill about the party saying rhubarb
because other words do not sound like conversation.
In the kitchen, always, one who's just discovered
beauty, his mouth full of whiskey and strawberries.
He practices the texture of her hair with his tongue;
in her, five billion electrons pop their atoms. Rhubarb
in
poem
pretty's just armor
something else

to wear like a dress or a name
not magic like skin

apparel apparent apparently
repellant pretty
don't draw

flies like
honey we just pretend

it does skin is

what draws you don't
believe me

just think skin flick 

the winter sky 
is not a skin you 
might fly right 

out