avrina prabala-joslin: if poetry is a prayer, is a poem a dare?

if poetry is a prayer, is a poem a dare?


i tell you, in the sun tonight, there’s a prayer, the bark of a river

i know since i came back i’m bones without a back, nothing glues them together, 

i don’t hold, sincerely, i pray, what thin strings my mother gave me.

forty years older, she stands, a glowing orange elephant.

my mother gave me her eyes, they tire quickly, they parch sooner,

become thirsty for waking, god, what walls these eyes, what scanners 

i look everywhere, see nothing. i look nowhere, see everything.

she’s knelt down at her bed, palms holding each other tight,

head bent to the v her arms make, talking to someone.

once upon a time, twice upon a sea, thrice upon a tree,

fierce upon a dream? where did the fire of poetry go?

won’t we flicking burn in its grace. i know since i came back

i’m flowing ink without a page, i still cannot speak of the things

that transpired, that night, that evening of a day. what poet

am i if i cannot gather the spill. sometimes i beg you

isn’t this enough? you’ve shaken me, i’m shook, this is enough.

can one be a poet who resists sites of crime, say no to chasing jaws,

fanged machinations of father time.

mother, are you asking your god how to get to the other side?


my mother’s body glows orange.

let me hear that inside voice, a mother

sat inside an elephant, my fibrous mother.

i know since i came back i don’t bray, open my skin to look

underneath this tailored shirt, this man a woman broke in me.

our dog runs for his life beyond our courtyard, our gates, straight

to the open road, going without knowing

the world, it’s treacherous if nations see you’re free

poets in exile, poets in foreign lands, poets on fire,

can we speak of our journeys over-n-over again.

we’re all intense worlds on our own,

can we light the pyre on those who killed us in the first place?

i fell in love too soon, my heart breaks, this proclamation, it comes with its stakes.

you’re pinned to the mast of a birthday cake and her month blows

a new age. mother, ask god if he knows my face.

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