Iain Haley Pollock is the author of Spit Back a Boy, winner of the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His new work has appeared in African American Review and online at the Academy of American Poets and Poetry Society of America websites. He teaches English at Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York, and is on the poetry faculty at Pine Manor College’s Solstice MFA Program.
On the Migration of Black Oystermen from Snow Hill,
Maryland, to Sandy Ground, Staten Island
From a distance, my flag
and star could be you. I could be.
If I weren’t, my body—the place
would still have need of it. No
Romanesque without me. I am.
I am. And the price of my being:
no monuments built me. None
save those cradled in crabgrass,
left for chicory. No monuments
but the air breathed. The history
of arches and burning
hearts. The history of false teeth
and matches. No monument
but the knowledge gained
in overrun gardens: yellowringed
snakes and unspecified
birds. But the topography
of mountains we have yet
to scale (looming forever
in the haze).
=========My body, your body—all our lives we have known
each other. Your arms clung
to porch columns. Mine painted
the fence in whitewash. Mine stood by
the gate and held it, every morning, open.
You saw me once. You do not see me.
My talk to you comes out a backward
cacophony, the chattering of crows
in the field’s distant sycamore.
You do not see me. You do not
see me, no monument you’d
ever recognize. A flutter.
A springed hinge. A flush
of violet above tough stalk.
A line of char in the soil.
A catch, in your lungs,
of cold air. I am. I could be.