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THE WORLD IN THEIR WORDS

Inspired by this year’s 400th anniversary Shakespeare celebrations, #wordswelivein explores the words we encounter every day and the stories they tell about our lives and communities. The initiative comes to life through live events, social media and text-and-image works by writers from around the world.

Find out how to participate in #wordswelivein.

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THE GHOST SPEAKS/I SPEAK

Find me under a porch, under a fickle sun, under
a mantle replete with photographs your father is
missing from. I am in the layered rot of your onion,
in your garage gathering dead bees. I blink in
perpetuity. My embodiment: paid in full.

(If only I had a spill kit to keep you in, to keep you
from pouring out. Imagine: no bile, no brine,
no oil blooming in no ocean. No history, no war,
no blood singing in cool night air. My grandmother
holds no knife in no tall wheat.)

I am listening from every wall. I won’t keep the blood
out; I can’t promise you that. You must believe me:
I am everywhere. Wear me like heavy wool. Let me spill
like the edge of a dream strung with moths, missing light.

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Coney Island Gleanings

Solace peeks out from behind a red fire box
on Mermaid Avenue. Flea market waving
a Brooklyn basketball jersey
under the hawk-eyed Parachute Jump’s watch
Inside the dark flea market no thing catches our attention, today
What we want is in the day, on a sidewalk
99 cent Pizza On The Run, fresh mangoes for $1
roti & bammy, breadfruit & sorrel juice
Brooklyn #23 Solid. Winsome. In the breeze.
Children’s pastel glyphs on the old bank—an urban universe
Fade psychic chalk drawing
oro, pan dulce & Timbuktu Hair Salon. Cosme’s Record Store
becomes hardware store becomes bakery
Terminal Hotel—empty lot
Peeling cream painted letters on Surf Avenue
Your handwriting reveals your character
She speaks seven languages

The layers of buildings— beguiling
hold so many

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Infusing Dry into FIDI Bay

I live in this haunted apartment too soon and the walls slowly emanate algae. they crave salt water every night before

several pale men standing at the corner search for cigarettes with smoky eyes
in the heady aroma, old ladies switching age at the sunglasses market
some fishes jump too low below the skyline, they grow lamps
thousands of foreigners sell lungs and become parts of the collection in a museum of transportation
never get lost, they sleep on my shoulders and carry groceries

I sense too much in my room but I cannot prove screams, heat, minks and electric shock exist
I open a pack of pink creamy cakes and it’s full of ants

have you come home lately
don’t be afraid of your hands wrinkled with wet
here, have rooftops
here’s gaudy jewelry piled up in the oyster bay
because you’re the pearl we fish for

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Saving the Palimpsests

I twist and tear the stems of weeds
As I wait for Daddy to return. Each evening
There are more. If I could summon the soft,
Hot lightning of fireflies I used to run through
Or know how Daddy’s petals began kneeling
In his window box garden, I might not fight the weeds.
I can’t fight the smoke, but maybe the excavator?
It rumbles back and forth, competing with the cock
Crowing itself into mourning. Before Daddy leaves,
He tells me that I am not a swan or a heron,
But a crane. He says that they speak up more
And, to be heard, we must testify.

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THE NEXT WORD

It’s a fairy tale of pain
that’s only physical     My kind of philosopher
loves everyone but loses patience
for whole centuries     returns swaybacked
Her most famous book says
architecture is a truce
               a peace deal with the crowd
I dig myself up to my neck     I dig myself
although I’m sore     Pain in a word
We’ve never met but I know your silence
and I love the road you’re on
You ghost in the sunlight
You road up the backbone

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Python

Swathed in its own shed skin, a mother in the kitchen, ensuring morning rises. In every heart, a life to protect. In every morning, a day to protect. Breaking out of skin is natural and terrifying. Journey of light into error. Sometimes you get caught in the crust of yourself, detritus of what ifs. Day stalls. You want to play a cello in the ocean so that each droplet emerges as symphony. You want your skin to whistle, the way a bird feeds its starlings cracked from shells just moments before, both a letting go and a harvest, both a swallowing and regeneration. Your skin tells you rebirth is a memory. Experience of what has happened in the shape of a new heart. Experience of the heart as a new shape. Protect the shapes, this upside-down night, this reverence in discards. Become the happy book. Become the pages turning, the light distilling. Become. When young, you played shapes, wanting the red square to go into the yellow circle, the purple triangle to nest yellow circle. Your mother peals the skin of an onion as you collect layers of all that is unwanted. Your heart clawing light. Your heart breaking every off note looking for grace. In every life, a heart to protect. You wave your hand over flame and the sun goes out. Python — shimmies out of its skins. You release the starling from your sight. You release your heart from your skin. You release prayer. Begin. Again: begin.

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it’s not my fault, doctor, I’ve got
water mania.
                         the word for
wine is wine, word for water is
water.
            chill eldorado the
pink sky winding back into dark
ness the wild river running back
ward to where the alphabet’s strange.
fall into the rockin’ tug.
                                       rip
tide. scatter. here you will be Paul’s
daughter, to stand watch on a red
dening sky.
                    here the river will
tickle you till night, mechanics
of bending light and of metal
swinging into a mass whisper:
luna. luna. luna.
                          arcade.
the world is made of only three
things: words; grammar; and some distance
from justice.
                     a dazzle parlor
of abstracted names, circles
of light intersecting above