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devorah major: California Poets Part 4, Four Poems

devorah major

December 29th, 2021

California Poets: Part IV

devorah major

Four Poems

usa fire alarm the house is burning we can smell its smoke sparks singe the curtains our eyes water as growing fires sizzle at our front and back doors on the top floors some of the residents are in a thick fog sleep others are trapped in the darkened basement straight-backed and frightened i sit in the living room i am not alone the house is burning the arsonists say they will rebuild the frame with our bones glue together ashes for the walls they have no need to replace the windows i have a bucket of water at my feet where should I throw it

as storms gather wind tears through shuddering trees a shifting sigh as leaves wither and fall shrieking squalls spume fury across ocean crests murmuring a moaning song with a piercing chill icy fevers inhale the waves’ surge swallow unmoored boats warning of seasons to come seasons only some will survive

downpressors Woe to the downpressors: They'll eat the bread of sorrow! Bob Marley you walked on our bones for centuries turned them to sand poured into sandboxes for your children to build sandcastles and when the sand became translucent filled with the sunlight burning your eyes you found more to sacrifice sent vultures to strip away our skins and built ladders formed from our ribs, limbs and skulls on which you climbed to get a better view of the lands you planned to conquer and now we rise joined by some of your children and grandchildren who have eaten of shame and refuse to travel on the rails you laid with our bones and each of you who blocks our path tries to press us back will be blinded by our brilliance blinded blinded blinded by our brilliance

a mother’s howl night sounds dirges of sirens and gun shots screeching tires and assaulting voices become bricks around your heart become an ever-tightening noose around your neck as the bridge of faith rocks and creaks beneath your feet hampered by age and poor construction what if it was you heart torn and bleeding by the call the knock at the door still hearing your son’s voice breaking into your restless dreams “mama, I love you” just as he exploded into death’s domain you who carries the grief of the mother who lost one and then another child you waking up cold sweat night after night when gunfire explodes blasts around your home you with the coroner and seeing your child cold but not yet stiff lying on a metal table your tears bathing his face because at that moment it wouldn’t matter if it was a cop obeying supremacist training or a neighbor consumed by confusion and rage all that matters is that flutter who quickened in your womb that baby who suckled your breast that child who climbed into your lap to pull your ears and give you sloppy kisses that youth who brought wild street flowers for love that young man who hugged you every day as if it was his last, “I love you mama” was dead and then consider if you would hear anything or only wail a howl that echoes mothers around the world who have felt that acid sear their hearts a mother’s howl a mother’s howl

Author Bio:

Born and raised in California, devorah major served as San Francisco’s Third Poet Laureate (2002-2006). In 2019 her sixth book of poetry with open arms was released in a bilingual edition in Italy. A Willow Press Editor’s Choice her seventh book of poetry Califia’s Daughter was published by Willow Press in July 2020. In June 2015 major premiered her poetry play Classic Black: Voices of 19th Century African-Americans in San Francisco at the San Francisco International Arts Festival. She is on two CDs as a part of Daughters of Yam. devorah major performs her work nationally and internationally with and without musicians. She has been a participant in international poetry festivals in Italy, Belgium, Bosnia, Jamaica, and Venezuela, and also performed her poetry across the United States and in France, the Bahamas and Germany.


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