Poems from Where the Island Sleeps Like a Wing: Selected Poetry
Translated by Kathleen Weaver
Mama brings coffee
from over far-flung seas
as if her life's story
encircled each phrase of smoke
that swirled between us.
Surprised by dawn, she smiles
and over her sugary hair
gold bracelets leap.
The somber thread of her childhood
endures between us.
We would like a towering tree,
a mountain flamboyán,
in whose noble shade
the troubadour might sleep.
Those leaves flying beneath the sky
are the language of our nation.
These birds that breathe
the hostile languor of the storm
know that April
unleashes all aggressions.
O country of my birth
I see you standing fierce, by the sea;
this dust I walk
will be the magnificent common garden.
And if we fall, once again
our bones will rise up on the sand.
Our spirits dwell here
in the unforeseeable month, April,
where the island sleeps like a wing.
An Oakland Apple Tree
for Angela Davis
See that strong, smooth apple tree
shading a grey sidewalk in Oakland?
Can you see it well?
Each molecule of its trunk has travelled from
Dakota woods and the tearful Missouri.
The great salt lake of Utah
has watered the resins of its bark.
Did you know that apple tree was planted
on land stolen from Wounded Knee
by the governor of the state?
Perhaps you know how its sap
is nourished with the prisoner bones and hair
of San Quentin?
Look hard at its mysterious leaves,
at the tiny threads through which
the juice of that sap flows.
Regard it well.
Observe the remote season it inaugurates.
Observe, child of the Northamerican west,
the apple tree's crown,
broader even than the very coast of the Pacific:
in its great root it keeps caravels and ghosts.
And you, traveler, it will shade you always,
but slow your heavy step before its shadow.
Never will you forget this tree has been
the sad, cruel, shadowy, the ephemeral dwelling
of multitudinous black heads hanging among the foliage,
From Where the Island Sleeps Like a Wing: Selected Poetry by Nancy Morejón, The Black Scholar Press, 1985.
— posted November 2016