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 Noire, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Kweli Journal, Apogee, Painted 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