Praise the glassy-eyed me the christened path between throat and diaphragm the light trail between nose and clavicle
Praise the childhood in my mouth Sunday morning cartoons under a striped stained blanket where the Smurfs look extra blue that day
Praise the Monday telenovelas where a twin slept with a doctor who was married to the other twin
Praise the aunties with spurred or callused feet and the best hands for brow, onion broth, and gossip
Praise the mothers who light no candle in grief− instead they pull a side drawer off its track for garlic tinctures and blue bottles half-empty
Praise the blue bottle its text smeared by lined fingers year after year after year
Praise the blue bottle with no label at all just a fire waiting to be scooped and spread over
Praise the steamed stubborn towel that bakes us in completes its job and holds us hostage Praise Vicks and any- brand VapoRub for making our melanin remember how to breathe and live
When Some Poets Go Over Their Reading Time on Stage
It’s as if they revert back to nights of scarlet Solo cups, and they’re toasting themselves for knowing the name Descartes or building the perfect card tower; six layers up is the new record. Or maybe they had a Price Is Right dream and this is their moment, to spin for a golden chalice, have mic fever ‘cause the crowd is chanting their name and numbers.
They imagine themselves as a superhero, legs spread in a power stance. Eyes gazing over a needy city spreading words, rhyme, or look that says I know what you know, see it in my eyes or in the threads of this mic’d up red cape.
Or their a modern-day cowboy or girl, day-walking about breaking instead of being broken– wild grey horses their stalls barely holding the size of the MC saying their name in lights. It’s as if they’re all fighting the belief that their poems stacked like past lives new aches are just loose- skinned Clementine’s. And they are tired of waiting in the shade from people who want to keep them right there.
-- Cynthia Manick is the author of No Sweet Without Brine (Amistad, 2023) which received 5 stars from Roxane Gay, editor of The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry, and author of Blue Hallelujahs. Her work has been featured in the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day Series, The Brooklyn Rail, and other outlets.