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1942-2067

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Melissa Stud­dard is the author of My Yehidah, The Tiferet Talk Interviews, and Six Weeks to Yehi­dah (recipient of the For­ward National Lit­er­a­ture Award, the International Book Award, January Magazine's best children's books of the year, and the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award). Her poetry collection, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, is forthcoming from Saint Julian Press. Her short writings have appeared in dozens of jour­nals and antholo­gies, includ­ing Boule­vard, Con­necti­cut Review, Poets & Writ­ers, and Ishaan Quarterly. She currently serves as a reviewer-at-large for The National Poetry Review, a pro­fes­sor for Lone Star Col­lege Sys­tem, a teach­ing artist for The Rooster Moans Poetry Coop­er­a­tive, an editorial adviser for The Criterion, an editor for Tiferet Journal, and host of  the radio program Tiferet Talk Interviews.  Learn more at www.melissastuddard.com.

Daughter | They Who See In the Dark
Painting You into the Scene | Poem for the Women of Atenco, Mexico

 

Daughter
—for Rosalind

Because I was a cave,
and you were the bird that flew through
my hollows, when they bathed the pain away,
the light on your face looked like
peace after a long and onerous
war, and I knew then what it meant
to conjure fire
from two sticks, to be an ocean
giving life to a wave, to invent
the wheel and its axel, unwind torque,
create a perfect language
from gurgles and sighs. Your body
was a new and sacred space. I was a universe
cooling after a great expanse.
And because bright cells
clung together to be you,
I could believe
I built the ark that saved humanity.
In animals walking two by two.
That I’m the one who sat beneath
the Bodhi tree
and begot the sacred fig
of enlightenment. 
I tell you, Athena sprung
from my own split
head. Because
emergence is a teaching.
Because your hands and feet
were softer than sand. Because before
there were canyons
or trees or lakes or winds,
you curled your hand around my finger,
and, with your touch, delivered the all.

 

They Who See In the Dark

—for Noor Basra and Noor Sheza,
two girls murdered for dancing in the rain

So freedom would rain
in the ballrooms of their chests, they
entered sideways through rhythmic
hands on imaginary drums. One
wore a wing beat in her eye,
the other, groves of laughter in her thumbs,
and all the while, they called it dancing.
You should have seen the way they gathered
nightfall into song. To stretch their necks.
Their little heads. To paint their deaths
as rainbows after someone else’s storm.
Who would have guessed clipped wings could
sissonne high enough to fly, or what it meant
to be a bird in such a sky, where each giggle
and every spin was a prelude to bullets singing
hate to hollow bones? In their town, clouds
were gaunt countries, begging exiles into tombs.
So, to show respect, please leave the dead
unburied—an opera of bitter winds
will come to honor life.

 

Painting You into the Scene

Because the sun hangs in the sky like a small, folded hand,
I count the brush strokes leading into evening. There are

so many ways to bathe a night in darkness, to wrap the indigo
hues of memory around a porch swing, to place a hound dog

like a river of mercy at someone’s feet. Because the dog’s
foot twitches when he is dreaming, I paint a chapel in the distance,

and people spilling down a tulip-dotted hill. I paint
their laughter, like forgiveness, into the flicker of a street lamp,

its yellow pulse a perfect passage into time. There are so many
ways to paint I miss you—to show your letter, resting

on a chair, to place your tea cup, steaming, beside a plate
of toast, as if by committing color to canvas, I could draw you

here to me forever. Because the teacup sits next to a window,
I paint a blue jay fiddling with a nest, I paint a hornet, I paint

a schoolgirl jumping rope. And because the letter says
I’m coming back to you I fold the night up into darkness,

tuck the sun between its indigo sheets, and study recipes
for mixing skin tones—a little ochre, some burnt sienna, some love.    

 

Poem for the Women of Atenco, Mexico

Take it now, this metaphor, your bread.
You’ve seen God bleeding in the streets,
but the militia couldn’t help, sooty faced
themselves, disoriented by the shrapnel
lodged beneath their right to choose
a peaceful life. Take these words flowing
like wine. Let them salve where hands
gripped too tight, where teeth broke the skin,
where fists beat your notions of freedom
and equality flat as powdered dough, flat
as grapes crushed beneath the pointed
boots of war. Let these words recall
those things you meant to be before
rage came storming through your town.
Let these words be your appetizers,
served to you with humility and respect,
that which you were denied four years ago.
Let these words be your dinners and your desserts,
Evidence that you are being heard. Eat them
proudly and let them sustain you, even
as the others sip margaritas on the patio,
even as the others go on about their lives
oblivious to what you have endured. Your time
will come. So keep your aprons on, women
of Atenco; keep your eyes on the timer
and your hearts on the cause – because grapes
beneath the feet will become wine, and
dough that is set aside will rise. Yes –
that neglected, resilient dough will rise.

Previous publication credits: “Poem for the Women of Atenco, Mexico.” Anthology of Muse for Women (No to Violence Against Women). July 2012. Hip Poetry 2012 Anthology. February 2012. Wind Publications. Print. Poem.