poetry
autumn/winter 2016

Under Our Feet

by Cynthia Dewi Oka

Photo: Beuford Smith

Under our feet

            burns America. The macadam
uniting us, crushed and bound 

            by dream-dust, the water lifting
from our skin to salute the clouds. 

             There is no above, only blue
that aspires to nothing but 

             the shades of itself. This is a gift.
For how many of us are marching 

           with our wood bones and horns 
of tongue because of America’s 

           insistence on heaven? Here
the heaven of boots that march gold over 

           the lake, a policeman’s account-
able cough, and women who move 

          moth-like around the moon’s
thoughts. Here the heaven where fears are 

           as breakable as bodies, where
hooks too are made of bodies. 

            I would like to say truthfully
that justice is what I want, 

            that it is the reason I am in this
river sinking through the armor 

             of city after city, and why I lose
sleep over the bottles lined up so 

              lovingly beneath Freddie Gray’s 
spray-paint memorial. Would it be 

             greedy to want something more?
A window to gather every one of 

            the dead who follow us, pledging
allegiance to no country but 

           the chalk in our spines. A blue-
print made of listening. And days 

           dressed in each other’s eyes, 
among the salt-kissed stalks 

           we’ve raised in the killing fields.

Cynthia Dewi Oka is a poet and author of Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (Thread Makes Blanket, 2016). A Pushcart Prize Nominee, her poetry has appeared in Guernica, Black Renaissance NoireFifth Wednesday JournalKweli Journal, ApogeePainted Bride Quarterly, and As Us Journal, among others. She is a 2016 recipient of the Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant, and her second book of poems is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press

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