Two Poems

Poetry / Breauna L. Roach

Juneteenth, 2016

By some stroke of mercy
I have arrived here at the end
of a quarter century—breathing.
I want to exclaim about love &
triumph & awakenings, but lagging
behind my shadow is the guilt
of having survived.

          I want to revel in how far we’ve come
          since this day in 1865, when the last of us
          finally got word we’d been free. I want
          to celebrate that every day, something has tried
          to kill me & has failed thus far—but the guilt
          of having survived is a plentiful load.

                    I want to write a poem about nature
                    not attached to violence. I want to see
                    a Black person in the streets & have
                    the luxury of taking that face for granted.
                    I don’t want each silent nod to
                    a brown stranger to mean,
                    thank God you are alive.

          I want to be able to mourn
          a tragedy and not place it against
          the backdrop of my own.

I enter most days trying to project onto the atmosphere
some me I imagine I’ll be. In the fiction, that me understands
what people do out of shame or feelings of inadequacy.

                    That me doesn’t act like everything & everyone
                    ain't been under the rug at some point. Like this
                    country itself ain't the muhfuckin rug.

Like you ain’t been the hand
(voluntarily) sweeping before or at least
          longed to be an extension of the arms
              in control of the hierarchy of soil
                  of determining what is dirt enough
                      for cleaning hiding disguising protecting—

Za Zen

We’re counting to quiet the mind. We’ve learned this
technique full scale but today I’m stuck on trying to pinpoint
how many sunsets are left before we break up.
These arguments have become nightly
like meditation. Still, our eyes are closed and I’m
lotus-folded atop the pillow. You’re crane-posed
on the wall—I can hear you chanting and the mantra’s
on my mouth, too—but my mind is randomly moving me
through the universe. One second, I’m in North Florida, the next
I’m in California, where the cry of the Native’s Loon Woman
has almost been forgotten but I find her—gold necked and weary,
wearing hearts that shrivel then swell on a necklace, throat full of smoke,
flying circles above the pit of fire she created when she could no longer
keep her lover. She is wailing, like any woman who’s been shattered
beyond repair, and I try bird-calling out to her, but the taste of charcoal
is too heavy on my lips and she wouldn’t have heard me anyway
for all the screams of the men she’s burning inside. And suddenly I realize
I’m counting “1-2-3” instead of the reverse, like we’re supposed to be
and I’m whistling a bird call to you, stay with me—or at least
help scrub clean the mess your absence will leave behind.

Breauna L. Roach is a poet from Detroit, MI. Her work has appeared in Callaloo, Vinyl, Winter Tangerine Review, and various other publications. Breauna is a Callaloo and Cave Canem fellow, who has also been awarded fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and The Fine Arts Work Center. She received her MFA from Emerson College, and is currently teaching composition and creative writing.