I have a feeling they would give me anything--
bread, shoes, songs, forgiveness.
Instead, they bring me cactus flowers & orchids
from the nurseries where they work,
where they have grown hungry
for a language that is not their own.
There’s more to this than a state of being:
past, present, future. Tell me, what are your stories? Angle is the Creole word for English, and medusa
is Spanish for jellyfish—an asterisk tipped
with electric barbs that floats beneath the surface. Were is a word that troubles them, and through
is an opening that’s hard to articulate.
I want to tell them about poets and revolutionaries
who rose from the same fields of lath and linen,
this scorch of citrus & nettle & yield. Mothers worry
about writing letters to their children’s teachers,
but dancing & food are universal. Papaya, sugar,
and water are all she needed, Carmela tells us,
sharing her homemade candy. On my desk, they leave
charms—roses & crucifixes woven from palmetto,
origami cranes with red margin lines on their wings. Last night, I wondered how many people
were looking at the moon along with me,
writes Etienne in wide-eyed, school boy script.
These new words between us, a scaffold of threads
knotting the gridline of latitude to longitude,
the same hard rib of equator. Who knew that Archangels
is a city on the White Sea, or that there are six thousand
phrasings for moon—mwezi, luno, mond, lor; huo guo
is the round rim we venture across with wooden sticks
paired like quotation marks, dipping our offerings
into the same seasoned essence—exotic new mouthfuls:
mung bean, taro, lotus, bamboo shoot, am, is, are, because.
LAURA SOBBOTT ROSS has worked as a teacher and a writing coach for Lake County Schools, and was recently named as the inaugural poet laureate for the Lake County Library Systems. Her poetry has appeared in more than 100 literary journals. In addition to several Pushcart Prize nominations, she was a finalist for the Arts & Letters Poetry Prize. Her poetry chapbooks are A Tiny Hunger and My Mississippi. A third book, The Graffiti of Pompeii, is forthcoming this year.