Poetry

This That We Have

Canisia Lubrin

call the year anything / call it twenty-twenty-something
the maps can tell us nothing everything    something
of this electric world                       where doors open
                  the expanse                                           of memory freeing itself
                        into the diaphragm of oceans, soils we find bearable

like life or maybe language a liquid thing
we lock our heads around & hearts       what to do with these
flesh-chambered engines we widen                   widen like the sea
like
a morning no more invisible than a black shoe
on a Black foot than two black hands laced
before a windowed, night-hued city
bright cluster
of fingernails enclosing the day
we come to these cracked spaces                         tuned—

to the lifetimes of extinctions swimming
in our mouths                               white-noised as
the future—a figure of speech

we are past hidden                                 our lives, ourselves hinged
to winged things
                  like shadows at midday       ruined cities crowding
                  at our feet
to watch what is rehearsed                   the waywardness of crowds

to meet again in the convoy                 on our way to anything
                  blue and scorching                                  just as to arrive

un-fleshed
                                          we who sound the Atlantic’s long rage
call the year anything; call it 1492
every sunset, an emergency
in this world
captives

bellying their sense of the dark 

as day splits open
a danger
though we bow to everyone who brings a drum

a fiddle for the frenzied ringing in our bones
we practice saving
ourselves from the quadrupling          intoxication
sudden, inconsolable as anything       the elephant’s
stolen tusk

the frozen plane below must crack like cymbals
in this knowledge but who can hear
what we do not             the fevered incantations of the dew
                  way up here
the chorus tonight                         [we know by now]
is the gurgling of seahorses
& the starfish giving up their placentas
to the wideness of the sea
                  just as the barking dog a country away
enters its cracked femur into the logmarked for saving
this world

more intimate now to us
is the flammable language of maps
the silence we admire in the birth of things
the effusive doctrine of birds

above us, such incandescence                               we move
with the desiccated graces and stones and roses
                                    the lines we inherit
                  the error of floating houses

do we petition the summoners of our preventable catastrophes—
                                    whoever claims to cleanse the village
without picking sides
                  is not believed
                  until the tongue pulls us together
                                          in the middle of repetitions
                  the shared sutures dissolving in our eye

amid our flight, our voices splotch the distance
our resplendent songs blackening

like a hurricane refusing a boat to wreck
the wounded map we dance upon
we danced it here

to the plantations at the sea’s beginning bend
                  tell everyone the matter
is not the self which we have always had
nor the caves
that in their damp and dark, know themselves
but the maps we’d move the world to make

like healers—

& crickets, disorient             the cartographer’s loftiness
down to bush and flock        to sunsets that hide
the lengths and breadths
we come back to; papered

with no even sense of the invisible
even empty as clay pots
we want the repaired century

nested, stained and carried in our heads
then loosed to the tall grasses
where frenetic servants’ visions

are ledgers of our semblances                   a clearing
the timbre for our reunions

look, call the year anything                        we should bring
bring a place to point to                              when we arrive

Canisia Lubrin is a writer, editor, and critic. Her books include Voodoo Hypothesis, The Dyzgraphxst, and Code Noir. Lubrin is the recipient of the 2021 Griffin Poetry Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize, the Derek Walcott Prize, the Windham Campbell Prize, and other honors. Lubrin is an assistant professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph, Canada, where she completed her MFA in Creative Writing.
Originally published:
December 1, 2021

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