April is National Poetry Month, so we are offering a poem each Tuesday for the next four weeks. Today’s poem is from the recent book Dub: Finding Ceremony by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. The final volume of a poetic trilogy, Dub explores the potential for the poetic and narrative to expose and challenge the dominant modes of being human, reminding us that it is possible to make ourselves and our planet anew.
another set of instructions
we are asking you to trust your hands. put them on your heart. trust
your heart. hear what we are saying. trust what you hear. we are
asking you to build a circle. always a circle. not almost a circle. face
each other. we are asking you to trust the faces. face the truth. it’s
round. we are asking you to make a sound. make the sound you need
by breathing. make the sound that calls us in. we are asking you. not
telling you. listen. we will not yell. well. not yet.
if you can use both hands, use both hands. knowing is not given; it
is made. you can make it out of cornmeal or flour, preferably. out
of dirt or fertilizer if you have to. let your fingers shape it until they
remember the making of the world. then step on it. and see how eas-
ily it flattens, how gracefully it changes its shape in the presence of
pressure. and remember that there are billions of feet. there is always
let the muscles in your hands grow more swift more sure from re-
making it every day. a curved place to live on indented by teeth,
crumbled by dryness. moisten it with what you have. spit and tears.
smooth it out with what you have. repetition and patience. soon you
will not have to look at what you are doing. you will feel every im-
perfection. you will accept some of them. you will even love some
difficult edges. you can watch the river go by. you can look at the TV
while you do it. maybe even have a conversation (though it will im-
pact the consistency of your shape). but if you can. use both hands.
take your hand off your forehead and remember you can already fil-
ter sunlight. take consistent deep breaths and surrender for you are
moon. let the rage held in any of the muscles in your shoulders, re-
lease. give love room.
drink enough water to remember how long water’s been waiting. eat
enough plants to remember what water can do. let the fear in your
hands go back where it came from. clean the room.
call the people you’ve been thinking about calling. do the things your
pummeling heart says do. let the lessons forming lesions be less real
to you than children. make room.
ultimately your children will forget. the names, the places, even the
tastes, the flavors, the smells, the feeling of being there. the lightness
or thickness of air is changing. ultimately they will too. their skin,
their way of moving, their ways of knowing of feeding of mourning,
rejoicing. their ways of growing might look like nothing to you.
ultimately your children will remember. the sounds, the setting, the
faces, even the waste, the saving grace, the hells, the peeling of breath
from air. the rightness or wrongness, the glare is wide ranging. ul-
timately they will do. their kin, their ways of smoothing, their ways
of sowing, of feeling, of morning choices. their ways of glowing you
dig down star until you find the water. mine the water. mind the
water. mine. the water waiting in you. dig down dream until you
find the river. find the salted brackish liver, find the giver, find the
gifts. find the guilt. find the rifts. running rivulets, the spit. the snot,
the not willing to get. don’t forget. dig down star, until you find the
ocean. mind the notion that it’s calm. find the potion, find the balm.
my star dig down until tears come up. don’t get stuck inside your
charm. these are my arms, your shaking lungs. this is the way. these
broken rungs. stretch out your bones, starfish. become.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a poet, independent scholar, and activist. She is also the author of Spill and M Archive, both also published by Duke University Press. Her books (and all in-stock titles) are currently available for 50% off with coupon SPRING50 during our sale. Check back next Tuesday for a poem by David Grubbs.