Until you’ve slept on river rocks alone

Or worn a dying shroud of ants like lace

You’ve loosed your cold water skin from the bone

Clutched your self closed curled down, chanting grace

To the ancestors in your wounds who drink

The screams of nations for their strength, wipe the

Red from your mouth like a honeybee, gorged

On the ember of the salt and burn.

But a flick,

And their drums clamoring up,

Ashes to ancestry

Descendants to dust.

2 thoughts on “

  1. Since this poem appeared in my notifications, (something that has never happened before? And I wonder how that happened) and since I do reeeeeely like your poetry, I comment.
    I hesitate to question your decisions, despite my uncertainties, thinking, that as I read the poem again, it will explain itself.

    The great strength of this poem is the power of the first lines and these:
    Clutched your self closed curled down, chanting grace
    To the ancestors in your wounds who drink
    The screams of nations for their strength,

    These lines compact genealogists’ nightmare with such succinctness. ‘ancestors in your wounds’! I would have been tempted to say ‘in your blood’ if I were writing this poem, and it would have been a lesser poem—almost trite. It is lines like this that tell me ‘trust this poet’ as are the lines ‘drink/The screams of nations for your strength’. The devil’s sacrament!

    That said, I am not with you on these lines
    wipe the
    Red from your mouth like a honeybee, gorged
    On the ember of the salt and burn.
    But a flick,

    “Red from your mouth” seems to suggest wiping off the gloss with which the ‘you’ understands, senses, the world? Perhaps, or maybe it suggests wiping the life from your mouth?
    But the simile “like a honeybee”? In my reading—which may be off—neither the ‘red from your mouth’ nor the simile are fully earned by the rest of the poem.

    I love the last three lines, ‘especially the play on the old saw “ashes to ashes. . . ,” but I ask myself are they completely earned? The only referents for ‘their’ are either the ants or the bees. But both seem

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lee! Wow, thanks so so much for your meticulous response!! I get so happy when I see people have taken the effort to critique my poems without me even prompting. It’s much, much appreciated.

      As far as the “ancestors in your wounds” portion, thanks so much! I definitely feel like that is the heart of the poem. As far as the other lines you commented on, to be frank, I’m also not entirely with them. I waver back and forth between abstraction and clarification of the subject in a lot of my poems, and I think one of my biggest struggles is choosing one course and sticking to it. I actually didn’t catch it this time and I’m glad you did, I tend to make this same mistake again and again. As far as the honeybee symbolism goes, my goal was to portray something life-sucking (which I realize now would be better represented by a mosquito or something a little more sinister) but definitely didn’t make that clear to my reader, so it only worked in my head. So what I’m gathering from your response is I need a little more consistency/ connection throughout my work.

      Again, thanks so much; your comments/ critiques are very helpful and deeply valued- thanks a million for taking the time to read my stuff and then write about it!

      Liked by 1 person

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