Poems

Rosa Parks

The day her body was laid out for viewing,
I was getting nothing useful done, so I left
work early and drove downtown.
The line of people wound all around
the Museum of African-American History.
I wouldn’t get to see her: the wait
would be hours, I’d brought no coins
to feed a meter, and there was nowhere
else to park. A man approached
to offer me all the change in his pockets.
I’ll always have fond memories of Detroit.

Winner, 2015 Diana Brebner Prize

Rosa Parks is small and mighty, subtle and gracious, an exquisitely wrought pearl of a poem that drew me deeper into its world each time I read it. Its beautifully sculpted musicality, the artistry of its rhythm and line breaks, its carefully placed details and the understated precision of its language all succeed in capturing a moment of naked humanity while bearing witness to a larger historical event.” Emily McGiffin, judge

First published in Arc Poetry Magazine, issue 77

Coming Back Around

Red, orange, yellow, green,
blue, indigo, violet—
I teach my daughter Roy G. Biv
as we crayon rainbows.

My father’s on the other side
of the world, reading Malayalam
magazines in his den. He emerges, looks
over our shoulders and shouts, “Vib G. Yor!”
his voice like a foghorn
from the ship that brought him here
to land in Detroit, decades ago. I realize,
in this instant,

how past and future form
not merely an arc but a full circle:

he taught me algebra with x’s
drawn as two tangent curves
instead of intersecting lines,

I was teased at school
for pronunciations I’d learned
from him, like
Pa-naa-ma Ca-naal,

and my Canadian daughter
accents the a in adult, sings zed
at the end of the alphabet instead of zee, and already
looks at me as though the things I do and say
are just a bit peculiar, if not
completely backward.

First published in Observing the Moon, Hagios Press

Dinoflagellates

Whirling whips, these
single-celled drifters
flail their flagella
and spin in the tide.

Since the Triassic,
they’ve nourished
the world’s largest beings:
calories for the sharks
and whales, oxygen
for the dinosaurs
and the rest of us on shore.
They can also turn
water red as blood,
poisoning those
who encounter them.

At night, unable
to photosynthesize,
they make their own light.
The sea fills
with flickering stars;
a miniature cosmos
laps at our feet.

First published in Variations in Gravity, Textualis Press