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Joy and Hope and All That: A Tribute to Lucille Clifton

The Chants of a Mile

in the beginning some   thing  breathed holy crowned in divine    he gave himself a name closer
to almighty   and how could we not hail a halo? in the beginning some     thing said let there be light
it is now half a lackluster moon fimbling fluorescence as the Q heaves beneath our heels   calmer
seconds come     now my braless peaks under white seams some   thing said let he be in likeness of
us us aren’t we the same? nameless lumps of girl to a chorus becoming legs away from floor
floor a dizzy dream up in the air webob webop to a disco whirl of before    to a rapper’s
eighth notes we memorized     we scream and to my surprise they chant
for Ava almost lyrical corduroy in this language  you had to be there
to know our glass hole     we smile           we filter she zooms into her reflection slicing me out of
periphery     she thinks too light blonde seeing only a feather no one will carry her heaven      one
thicker than wood later  she is blacker than black lashes   ultramarine irises eyelined browner in all
seriousness   Anastasia’s powder made eyebrows darker on Lexington girls brown black blonde
tangled behind pierced ears       so this version of Ava asked me what’s different about her glares and
no’s above the rim of Warby
her penciled arch softens into
truth this time   says they’ll laugh at me wannabe wolf and all my winks caught in smoke coughing the
greys crowning my name they’ll know i belong in brick and how badly i want to dance with strobe
especially out the window of Uber this is Eden black and tinted    noisy man turns right
instead of left the glass puzzle on Corona concrete trembles these tires speeding  yet we still laugh at
something out there    maybe it’s me        likeness of who? the Q dents underneath my red weight & this
is a night’s normal i finally fit in when i squeeze the perfume out of my name,
spritz into everyone else’s molars,
a chorus line of cringe,
Ava and all her awkward
behind her but
silly girls lose their names to a melody all the time i    a new city memory mangy next
morning but this is the wish another sixteen candle is blown out for to have guts & beat drop
staggers into laughing french inhale girl into a kiss but    this one sos’ed next morning she
remembered riverdale but not my name
not my name
not my name
not my name
i guess i lost it
while yacking in
Amber’s toilet bowl room    always the plus one pity party in a pizzeria next door that night even
my purple smelled green greener grass but this is someone else’s New York City dream    to lose
syllables on laps inside a basement secret to sirens heavenly to our tremor for the new week’s waning
the guardian angel never comes the mother’s cries do not make it past Union Square
so here we are  tasting some   thing the life of the party does not fear when i say i have nothing
to lose against the night liar some   thing sent rain on my way back to the station  a drop of
squall muddied my gloss i knew this wasn’t of here    the way it scrubs masc tugging my curls slick
a drop from my coast    carribean like rain sheen on her petal cheeks I walk next to Ava the girl who will
drown the brown crowning her pretty tonight but aren’t we the same? almighty gave up on us i
gringa girl she sapphire sad welcoming back the beaded black chunks bagging her eyes
older       matted into truth    truth is would you believe she is nameless now? Ava Ava Ava the
swift rush of a memory  the chant of going miles for a verse Ava Ava Ava my slang licks her lower lip cool
or her slang christens my teeth whiter   but aren’t we the same pack of twos burning blues she has
I steal     my blonde dream her assassin
she’ll come back with another beauty in another hundred years like below my fourth floor
window  still    a little girl’s left cavity almost wiggles bloody her sea chunks stains the concrete lobster
red her mother swears she will not burn black coils pretty for picture day and yet i hear my name from
an outside giggle and there she is
my L and I and A
echoed between
toddler fingers;
the mouthing of mine,
my syllables’ truth,
Ava’s next life’s apology to me.
Natalia Mercedes Rodriguez

Natalia Mercedes Rodriguez

Natalia Mercedes Rodriguez is a poet based in New York City. She has performed at Urban Word, Bryant Park, The Asia Society, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Public Library and elsewhere ...