lord knows I have been called by what I look like more than I have been called by what I actually am

Today I share just one from a stunning series of poems with this same title from the collection A Fortune For Your Disaster, by the the great writer, poet, and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib.

illustration of a dandelion with thick green stems
art by Kristina Closs

“How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This”

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good 
mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something 

about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself 
but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown 

& lord knows I have been called by what I look like 
more than I have been called by what I actually am & 

I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this 
exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning

something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything 
worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive

 to the tongue first. say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out grandfather 
clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent

heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning, 
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.

from A Fortune For Your Disaster

All day wondering if I’ve become useless

illustration of an osprey carrying sticks in the air
Art by Kristina Closs

“Brocade”

by Jane Hirshfield

All day wondering
if I’ve become useless.

All day the osprey
white and black,
carrying
big dry sticks without leaves.

Late, I say to my pride,

You think you’re the feathered part
of this don’t you?

All around me the thousand small denials of the day.

Illustration by Kristina Closs

“Alone” by Philip Levine (1928-2015)

Sunset, and the olive grove flames
on the far hill. We descend
into the lunging shadows
of goat grass, and the air

deepens like smoke.
You were behind me, but when I turned
there was the wrangling of crows
and the long grass rising in the wind

and the swelling tips of grain
turning to water under a black sky.
All around me the thousand
small denials of the day

rose like insects to the flaming
of an old truth, someone alone
following a broken trail of stones
toward the deep and starless river.