Poems

Poetry, please

And when we speak
let it be said

that nothing is lost
in translation.

That our words are true
and tenable.

That we understand
the meaning of “sii,”

the Ohlone word for water,
which is you.

The Ohlone knew this.
They were first of this county,

borne of seawater and
woven reeds to salt

marshes and pickleweeds
and saltwater silvered

by smelt.
They fared

on abalone
and blue elderberry.

Western chokecherry.
Periwinkle.

Oaks.
All flourishing, grace-filled,

transitory.
If I were a weaver,

I would gift you
a basket made of sandbar

willow and tule,
bright as cinnabar.

But I can only write
this poem,

a tributary,
to carry

the weight of water
as it flows and hefts

the meaning of you.
Giver and taker.

And everything that I knew.


 

Still, like air

     “You may shoot me with your words,
     You may cut me with your eyes,
     You may kill me with your hatefulness,
     But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
     —Maya Angelou

we rise toward
the light, our movement
widening as though

in prayer, holy
and urgent. I will
say your name—

an act of love
more powerful than
the weight of air

or the falling of light.
Like clouds speaking
their truth—every

heap and layer, every
curl of hair, a reckoning.
Still, I pray

for grace, to hear
your story, and what
you know of clouds—

why they shine
at night, where they
touch the ground,

how they birth a star.
Perhaps you will
want to know

my story, and why these
queries—like, what
will it cost

to cross an inch
of scorn? Or climb a wall
of fear? How much

to plough the air,
to read the clouds?
How much for a sip

of water, a gulp
of air? How much
for three square

feet of space?
For the narrowest
breathing place?

How much for
the life of my child.
Still, I ask—

an act
of grace as I rise
toward the light.

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