One day a descendant of ours will go on a Carnival cruise and still find time to think of us. She will hear the boom-hiss of a house mix but think haiwezekani kuwa na amani bila kuelewa. She will stare down a wave, study its dance moves, note the direction it takes depends solely on the angle of her own glance. And she will wonder, is that the most profound thing she might learn about water.
She will crawl under the bed in attempt to imagine how we once felt, then curse at having too much space to move. At 6:30 in the morning she will spill a bowl of grits on the liquor-soaked deck and eat the cold, bleached cornmeal with her hands. She will ponder disease. She will envisage death. And she will speculate, the gulls must have stepped near us to pluck between planks for grain as they do now.
But she thinks not of how we watched the birds circle overhead, bomb beak-first into the ocean. Each in our own way, we began to imitate. A few of us induced feathers. I plucked a plume, made a quill.
Crabs scratch backs, claw steel pail. One’s back to another is a ladder home.
Translation (from Swahili): It is impossible to be at peace without understanding it.
Acrostic for my Last Breaths
If I’m ever out of oxygen
Cut the comms. Switch the radio, play A song by Whitney or Aretha, something No sense can pause my throat from parting for. ‘Gon throw my sorrows into this vast, black void That don’t even have space to hold tune, or blues,
But I don’t sing to be heard. I do it to keep on. Ring diaphragm and rattle lung like sickness, each Eighth-note a reason to stay living. Can’t take A rest, might hear the sensor’s whining, That worried, heaving falsetto of siren. How I hate the sound of dying. Rather riff Even if everything in me stops screaming.
-- Ashanti Anderson (she/her) is a Black Queer poet and writer. She is the winner of the Spring 2020 Black River Chapbook Competition and her debut short collection, Black Under, is forthcoming with Black Lawrence Press in Fall 2021.