By Hakim Bellamy & Liza Wolff-Francis
Whether Duke (Ellington)
or Deniece (Williams)…
you are Butterfly Black.
in flight or otherwise.
Ready for air.
A flittering trumpet mute.
Finding a runway
on any given pearly gate.
Finding a Sunday
to ever so occasionally spread
often confused for celebration.
Turn insides out,
spread cheeks and tongues for examination.
Bare bones and teeth,
as though better blocks and auctions
could preen you.
The ultimate believers,
in those who share your species
We are butterflied people.
All open heart surgery
and lower back vertebrae,
fused and refused
by the sun.
we always wanted to be.
Showing your skeleton
to the world
takes a toll on your soul.
And trading your spine for wings
is how exoskeletons roll.
So you fly.
So fly you don’t need a neck
So fly you don’t have a neck
Gave up wins
Hung up on a halo
slung a lil’ lower.
A gold chain,
with those Black Boy bullseyes
cross our backs.
But Black is Black,
and beauty won’t escape you
nor save you.
a sign of rebirth
perhaps unnecessary death,
at least you fly as ******.
Hakim Bellamy is the inaugural poet laureate of Albuquerque, New Mexico (2012–2014), and currently serves as deputy director for the Cultural Services Department for the City of Albuquerque. Having shared his work in no less than five countries, he is convinced that poetry is the sixth love language. He’s also written a few books. Find them (and him) at beyondpoetryink.com.
Voice of the dried acequia
In summer’s heat, the earth misses
water when it’s gone. Trickle of feather,
now wind and weed. When canals dry up,
what do the plants that fill them say?
Do they speak dreams of sharing water
in the desert? Under the leering
twisted arc of Cottonwoods,
the untended acequia, handed down
by generations of earth’s whispers,
a worn path, proud with mud and imprint,
a breeze brushes against my face
as if it had a name. Water may be rerouted,
but remembers where it once traveled.
Can we irrigate ourselves?
As if one body, water feels in one place
when it is hurt in another.
Her jump in the desert
It is the coyote in the comb of light through dawn
that wakes me, nudges my feet with the wet
of her nose, calls me beyond sleep breath.
My feet, cold on the hard earth, follow her
across dirt sprinkles. Scattered winded burrs
invite the cruel appetite of my flesh.
I always wanted to believe my body was not fragile,
that it came too far to give up on itself,
but when I say this, coyote begins to howl.
What is left of the dark paints a chill into my skin
that coyote fur does not feel. I am away
from all we have created, the sharpening of our knives,
the ovens for our bread. There is a silence we know here
from before we knew there was noise. Its taste
is empty of sand, of salt. I am a crumb
that may dissolve at any moment into only matter.
The sky holds me between thumb and forefinger, dangling
as the mountains watch us. This may be a dream.
I see myself fade away between the desert and its wide lens.
Coyote’s is an open-mouth existence and I cannot bear
my own weight. I may disappear,
break the infinite quiet and bring the day.
Coyote jumps at my voice, my solid existence.
Her body an animal curve, magic falls from her, like dust,
makes a cloud of her own shedding decay, settles
into the air we breathe. Silence pulls back from me.
The day comes fast now, coyote is gone, and I am alone.
Tides of moon, fears of sun,
our features like animals
with breath of storm.
This was not raising the dead,
so we unfolded ourselves
before her. Her house full
of dried herbs, flowering plants,
a psychic knowing. Dexterity
in her fingers as if they acted
alone, poetry in her words
and hummed songs. Laws
of the universe working
to make us strong again.
Each earth emptied
of past doubt, anointing us
with perfumed oil of lavender,
of sandalwood, under arms,
in the hair of our bodies. Healer,
she sliced air with sword sticks
to focus our minds on our wishes,
served us water to drink passion,
to set fire to dreams.
In the motion of the aether,
the cosmos, the universe, the sky,
she gathered the petals of our spirits
to put us back together as flowers.
Nostalgia and what we remember
all comes back,
when we hear
that which is tangled
in a laugh,
a misplaced heart,
of sound and scent.
Dreams of flying,
meaning in the hidden,
a soul, clumsy lips,
voice from taste buds,
from drool, from a tongue
like the old country
we say we once had
and now try to let go of
or try to hold onto.
Liza Wolff-Francis is a poet and writer with an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. Her work has been published in various publications, and she has a chapbook called Language of Crossing (Swimming with Elephants Publications).