POETRY February 5, 2021


He took his body very seriously,
always ran and had pride
in everything he did.
– Ahmaud Arbery’s father to ABC News

Today I braided my hair.
Massaged the pads
of my fingers with each slide
down these textured strands.

Today I also took a bath
of bubbles and Epsom salts,
lit candles that created a wild glow
on my skin each time I lifted my leg
and watched the bubbles jazz
their way back to the water.

Today I listened
to Billie Holiday ask a willow tree
to weep on her behalf
and wished nature worked that way,
wished a gardenia could cover
some of my mistakes.

Also today I drank a cup of tea—earl grey. 

I read Wanda Coleman poetry,
counted how many
bottles of water I consumed.
I napped.
I ran a few miles
in bright clothes.

I have cried for trees before,
but I never thought to ask one
to drop its leaves for me.

Today I stopped by the sugar maple
before untying my running shoes.
I know you don’t have weeping in your name, I said,
but perhaps you might at least tremble.

I sat on one of its roots today.
I repeated names many of us now know to say,
and we both shook—the maple and me.
I pulled loudly on oxygen.
She let me sit there. Breathing.

Ciona Rouse is the author of the chapbook Vantablack (Third Man Books, 2017). Her poetry has appeared in Oxford American, wildness, NPR Music, The Account, and other publications. She is poetry editor of Wordpeace. Along with poet Kendra DeColo, Rouse hosts the literary podcast Re\VERB in Nashville, Tenn.