Elegy for Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam

— Brionne Janae

I’m convinced all water flows from the Atlantic
think often of how it percussed against the hulls
of ships to beat a dulcet song for death to follow

and how she followed doing what she does
and how the water was unchanged by it     and now I’m here

and told to silence my demons
though they are my inheritance     I have inherited so little

last time I stood at the shore    the waves lapping
at my feet steady as a hymn somebody’s momma sang
for the end of a life     I was sure there was a sound

worse than wailing released with the foam of each wave
like the clash of a gong humming in my bones—

I’ve never really felt a claim to the women who wept
their way across the sea but to those who flung themselves

into the heavy waters and prayed to be drug down
only consumption can end consumption
I think you knew this     I think you chose to be devoured

your spirit longing after freedom
as a seabird longs for the roll of the sea
we are sisters this way

and you were always walking toward the river
the air as drunk and stained with piss
as ever     where else but the river

its camel back sway and how the old folk still sing of water
as if it were a way home


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