NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD NAME, M/DD Express %26 Inspire Development %26 Publication

Nancy Morejón

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

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