A poem is a gesture toward home

after Jericho Brown

When people ask when I first began to write,

I think of the walls I first ran my greasy fingers along.

The homes I would never call my own

but would be called home by everyone who knew me.

I knew the walls though – the peeling paint and the damp.

I remember the comfort in magnolia.

I remember how each bedroom felt like a canvas

for words rather than paints. I screamed into the space

rather than my pillowcase and I made immature love

to oxygen keeping me buoyant in the hours of childhood:

the fairy gardens and the power I felt itching

beneath my skin.

I wrote because, in truth, I believed I was a witch.

Unburnt. A parable, a warning about why you shouldn’t walk

for too long in the dark.

But the power quivers at my fingertips and I unloose

the quiver at my back, dip arrows in ink, weave stories

from the words my mother taught me

and remember the walls, the ones which were not mine

but I vowed to build my own.

A poem is a gesture toward home

so when people ask when I first began to write,

I remember the comfort in magnolia 

and the promises I made to keep. 

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