Poems

There are no kings in America
(Vox Populi, July 4, 2020)

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Ghazal for George
(The Nonconformist Magazine, June 26, 2020)

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Haint Blue
(San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 2020)

To free yourself of the haint,
you need to vanquish it.
Paint your porch
the color of water
which is power,
with the might to scatter
blue light to the green
of seawater. But remember
how heavy color can be.
How shades of blue
came from true indigo,
which needed an abundance
of water and limestone
above the bedrock before
it became a cash crop,
which needed to be pounded
and crushed, and dusted
with wood ash to make
blue cakes, which was the currency
of slavery: a bolt of cloth
dyed indigo for one human body.
But mixed with lime and some
white mineral, it resembled water
which haints could not cross over.


In Half Moon Bay
(The Banyan Review, Spring 2020, edited by Tayve Neese)


A Short History of Journey
(San Francisco Public Library’s Poem of the Day, May 16, 2020, curated by San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck)

The fault, dear Arcturus, is not in your star.
I’m afraid we misread the swells
like explorers mistaking one continent for another.

“Columbus stretched out Asia eastward until Japan almost kissed the Azores.”
“The Chinese treasure fleet had been mothballed long before Magellan set to sea.”

In other words, they were imprecise, and they perished.

(Behold the flight of birds on rarefied air,
from breeding ground to wintering ground.
Behold intention, and it’s kin, precision.)

Be that as it may, we were always meant for motion.

See how the Silk Road was paved with horses’ bones.
And more than smuggled silkworm, it brought sugar, silver,
paper—utter world changer.

See how the Spice Trade flourished,
shoring up an empire, its galleons—implacable bearers of a slave
trade from Manila to Acapulco.

The world got its cinnamon, its cocoa, its cassia and cardamom,
its lapis lazuli, and its Balas Ruby—ancient and sapphire-veined.
We got wanderlust.

And the bravest of us looked up and remembered everything—
the fixed star, the dippers, the king, the queen, the bear-keeper—
rubescent and fourth brightest in all the night sky, dearest,

remembered also the cardinal of old fields and every roadside—
brilliantly blue and sometimes true—in the same night sky,
roaming its way home.


*Information about Aileen’s poetry collections/chapbooks here and here.