Tamiko Beyer’s “Equinox” & Mahogany L. Browne’s “Do not make Grief your God” (Split This Rock)


by Tamiko Beyer

Dear child of the near future,
here is what I know—hawks

soar on the updraft and sparrows always
return to the seed source until they spot

the circling hawk. Then they disappear
for days and return, a full flock,

ready. I think we all have the power
to do what we must to survive.

One day, I hope to set a table, invite you
to draw up a chair. Greens steaming garlic.

Slices of bread, still warm. Honey flecked with wax,
and a pitcher of clear water. Sustenance for acts

of survival, for incantations
stirring across our tongues. Can we climb

out of this greedy mouth,
disappear, and then return in force?

My stars are tucked in my pocket,
ready for battle. If we flood

the streets with salt water, we can
flood the sky with wings.

Previously published in Foglifter Journal (Vol 5, Issue 1, 2020) and Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database (March 19, 2021).

* Poet’s Writing Prompt: This poem is from my new book, Last Days: a practice of radical imagination for our current crises, calling on ancestors and future generations to conjure a new world. Take a moment to breathe and reflect: What wisdom do you hold? How will you use it in times of upheaval? And how will your ancestors guide you? Channel your ancestors or a future self. Write it as a chant, a history lesson, or unearthed fragments.

Do not make Grief your God

by Mahogany L. Browne

Make it a cup of coffee
The espresso percolator wheezing on
the biggest eye
of the stove

Consider the dress
line up every spark you own
and weep at its small finalities
Hold each piece of silk and cotton
like the gone love/hero/heart
Name the garment, please
give Grief a name
Then fold it
Place it kindly in a home suitable
for royal things

Text every contact
In your cellphone
I love you
I love you
I love
Try this same exercise with your email inbox
newsletter, spam and such correspondence
Each item will bounce back with your declaration
in the subject line:
I love you. I love you. I love you. you. you.

Glorious chant of remembrance
Praise the ability to feel this deep:

The goldfish. The grandparent. The ball player.
The children detained. The spoiled water. The
sewer spilt government. The son. The daughter.
The bullet. The gift of ghosting. The promise of
no more. The mother. The father. The empty
womb. The empty heart. The desertbranch throat
clenching tightly, a name no one will speak.

On the third day
pull yourself out of bed
wake with a start
Can you feel death’s bone milk?
Good. This means you are among
the living
Good. This means your heart is yours

Do not drink from the glass
left next to the bed overnight
Do not drink from the glass
of the unknown
Find fresh water
Find fresh water
Become fresh water
Pour into yourself

On the fourth day
when you wake
leave Grief asleep if you can

If Grief is already sitting upright
on top of the duvet covers
next to your closet
on the nightstand
against the crowded windowsill
Call it by the name you’ve crowned it
Grief will watch you make the bed
and fluff the pillows with lavender oil
Invite Grief for a walk, remind it with a whisper
we all need fresh air

You and Grief
move soundless
beneath the sun

You climb the stairs
pass the puddles of dew
and undisturbed dog shit

You and Grief
walk side-by-side
hands not touching
but feather whispclose

The light tips its full cup

Previously published in Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database (February 7, 2020).

*Mass Poetry Writing Prompt: Personify a feeling, or state of being. Do not make it your God, but spend some time with it, however works best for you. Go on a walk together, perhaps. Or make a meal for it. Ask it about itself. Write about the experience.

This issue of The Hard Work of Hope is produced in partnership with Split This Rock.

Tamiko Beyer

Tamiko Beyer is the author Last Days (Alice James Books) and We Come Elemental (Alice James Books). Her poetry and articles have been published widely, including by Denver Quarterly, Idaho Review, Dusie, Black Warrior Review, Georgia Review, Lit Hub, and the Rumpus. She publishes Starlight and Strategy, a monthly newsletter for living life wide awake and shaping change. She is a queer, multiracial (Japanese and white), cisgender woman and femme, living in on Masssachusett, Wampanoag, and Pawtucket land. More at tamikobeyer.com.

Mahogany L. Browne

Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer & educator. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg. She is the author of recent works: Chlorine Sky, Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby, & Black Girl Magic. As the founder of the diverse lit initiative, Woke Baby Book Fair, Browne is excited to release her newest poetry collection responding to the impact of mass incarceration on women and children: I Remember Death By Its Proximity to What I Love (available Sept 2021), She lives in Brooklyn, NY.