National Poetry Month x Spring: Ten Poems About Change

This National Poetry Month coincides with both spring and the solar eclipse, bringing change to the forefront. Here’s a collection of ten poems about change from Room issues to sit with during this time of transformation and learning.


 

“Old and Wise,” by Jónína Kirton, in Room 44.3 Indigenous Brilliance

soon to be sky bound the stars await
until then I long to be all that I am
to move between day and night

a cloud     floating      thin

my fingers filling with sunlight

my limbs beaming brightness

my hair radiant silvery wisps

shining in the moonlight

my body buoyant and blameless

I long to lay low        stay close to the earth
until the wandering wind persuades movement

and in the morning, I filled luminous
bright, breezy

my arms      my legs
feathery wisps of innocence

no fingers pointing     mine now tender tendrils

gesturing toward earth

old and wise I will have stories to tell

 

“Shadow Twin,” by Lydia Kwa, in Room 40.3 Migration 

winged seed’s
flight path
without thought
or thinking

 

autumnal destiny
rains shiver of
secrets
music for air
and chickadees

 

to choose one
is an act of tender
mystery

you who birthed
an imperfect presence
shadow twin
that eludes capture

 

 

“Shoulders,” by Isra Siddiqui, in Room 46.2 Ley Line

Someone I love taught me how to float on my back, chop an onion, paint a wall, serve in badminton, pitch a tent, breathe from the base of my stomach, pour strong tea, wrap a scarf around my neck, skin a chicken, use saffron with a liberal hand, use cardamom sparingly.

(Somebody I love said the pain my shoulders
is the muscle contracting even at rest—)

Somebody I love said, stop now, that’s enough; taught me how to fold clothes and tell good lies all in the same breath. Somebody I love pressed flour and salt and ghee between my hands, and said like this, in layers; brushed a thumb across my cheek, and said, come home if you can and drive safe if you can’t. I accepted the words as gospel.

(—that perhaps it is alright if I take a breath,
tip my head forward,
brace for the pain, teeth clenched.)

Somebody I love said loving someone, it will pass; terrible and draining in the moment, the edges dulled in retrospect. I took this as gospel, too.

(Somebody I love placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed,
fingers digging into the flesh,
a brief, startling pain,
the muscle contracting,
breath knocked out of my lungs—)

Somebody I love taught me the boundaries of what I can and cannot have, the
edges of my own happiness.

(—before the pressure released; the tendons untangled.)

 

 

“The Fatigue,” by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch, in Room 43.2 Devour

The Fatigue is just fatigue. It
sprays my body like
a numbing agent. Say the
way I sleep might not be
working, say the way I eat
might not be working
Hope to god the meds
start working. The other day
she said you need firmer
boundaries. Sometimes
this looks like an earlier
bedtime. Fuel your body
with hope that something
might change. Like a bowl of rice
steaming, put it in your mouth
and huff, too quick, too impatient
But if nothing changes, keep
moving. A challenge is only a challenge
once you stop trying. No, I mean
a challenge is always a challenge
when your body doesn’t work right
What is right? They only say
the right side of history when
a few decades have passed
Someday, we will look back
and see much of the same
Say thank you for your friends
and the family that stays in touch
Was it challenging? Everything is
changing. The fatigue is just fatigue
until it’s not.

 

“Cosmology of Impossible Belief,” by syan jay, in Room 44.4 Open

 I.

 

 There are worlds bubbling beneath your chest,
we have yet to find them. Imagine, space
explorers traveling the universe until we find
bodies that fit us best. In one transmission,
we log finding ivy draped across Andromeda.
In another, ghosts finding themselves happier
in an afterlife of their own making, whisper
language created between sheets of heaven.
I say corporeal and sunrise shimmers into the room.
You say uncertainty and the sky opens for you
to know it’s listening. We joy into the bedrooms
of strangers. I joy as you wait while I adhere
my yearning comma. What is more powerful
than the star transforming into new life?

 

II.

 

Enter this world and its broken-open mouth.
We shout birth names down its throat, wait
for it to spit out new wantings. We sleep to see
alternative timelines and wake to find bowls
of water at the end of the bed. I wash your feet
and you weep new possibilities onto my hairline.
We are indistinguishable from storms destroying
trailer parks. Flashes of sheet metal and rundown
dogs until someone says release. Listen, it never
mattered what we called ourselves. All anyone will
hear are the slow groans of celestial reconfigurations.
We mockingbird desire, hopeful for a returning
with better consonants. In dreams, we lace
blooming lexicons into your first blue dress.

 

III.

 

We reverse. Axes resurrect the felled sycamore.
Your mother embraces you, her jaw a slowing shiver,
rage tendrils into love. Spit on my shoe returns
to its well. Dearest tumbleweed, will we roll back
to the familiar deserts choked by juniper? An invasion
of lovers wait for us to drink from their throats.
This is an old story we keep forgetting. A retelling
of uncertain universes. Fingers prying the mouth
who does not know how to call and respond, almost
canyons gasping until the flood comes. Understand that
water is a mirror, we could drown in all of its reflections. We
backstroke to memories under the
moon where fingers snag on zippers and I call
to you with sounds that are your echo.

 

 

“Moon Children,” by Natasha Ramoutar, in Room 42.1 Magic

I wonder if us moon children, soft-shell crabs that lie on sandy
shores where the water lapses to kiss the land, were always
destined to be like this. Made more emotional than we are,
gaslit to the point of explosion. The root of the word lunacy is
Luna, as if the moonlight itself and the shimmering of the night
were the cause of it all, as if flesh and bone, intention and
accusation had nothing to do with it.

 

“Cycles,” by Sarah Kabamba, in Room 39.1 Women of Colour

Water is about history
history is about ripples
ripples repeat, create waves
waves make seas make oceans make tsunamis make floods
water leaks from rib cages; there are people who hold
oceans inside of them; turn them inside out and press
them to your ear, hear their stories like the lullaby of the sea in a shell

shells are about echoes, echoes are about listening
and listening is about remembering is about forgetting
but the sea never forgets—
remember time does not always heal, sometimes it rips
you open, reopen wounds until you’re bleeding nostalgia
and your blood is a story because veins are about
roads are about roots are about connections are about family
ties older than rivers than oceans than seas and tides
dance to the moon’s song, long to leap into the sky, to become
air, stars, constellations, galaxies, worlds
the wolves in my heart are howling, sending messages to the stars
and the man on the moon is crying for the sun
someone should tell them
shhhh
there is beauty in darkness

 

 

“Missed Connections,” by Amal Rana, in Room 41.3 Queer 

Karachi,
lives in my bones
whispering memories
vertebrae to ulna,
my fingers reach
to detangle her humidity
from my hair,
feeling for moisture
no longer there.

 

On Juma,
I dream a bursting extravagance of puris
steaming from the bazaar,
a cardamom-scented mountain
of suji ka halwa
fried gold,
cousins fighting
for the prized malai
on top of the milk.

 

In all the places
we can never call home,
I search for
abandoned charpais
chambeli ke phool,
drink rose-scented Rooh Afza
to the bottom of tin glasses,
look for reflections of a larki
in torn jeans and a kurta
who may once have been me.

 

Karachi,
I call her long distance,
the line scratchy with diaspora
and missed connections.

 

She flips back her thick, black hair,
laughs at me, says:
“Everything has changed,
next time, just text.”

 

 

“The Alarm Set to Birdsong,” by Eugenia Zuroski, in Room 43.4 Twine

is that a queen and is she a real queen

 

is that a potato bug

 

is twilight the start of the day or the end

 

why does the calendar keep moving

 

is it alive or is it art

 

what is a weak day

 

what’s the word, the other word

 

the opposite of dawn

 

it’s a kind of light

 

it’s an insect sound

 

 

“Periphery,” by Oubah Osman, in Room 41.4 Emergence

I move through this city. I am thinking about my mother, who told me this morning
that I was named from many other names by my uncle, who wrote on a sheet,
oubah, and placed it in a hat with the other names, and said,
she is, and she will become.

 

I think my mother is not unlike many other women who know that their daughters
are their own being extended over limbs and ligaments. Proof of the essential qualities
of longing, a life lived through each contracted feeling. Each river needs a stream
that calls from that river.

 

My mother does not remember the name she placed within the hat that day. She
tells me that my name is not hers, but my skin is. That my limbs that tower
over her are somehow hers.
My lashes that sometimes feel like a whip are hers, even in their weary,
drooping ways.

 

She tells me that I began between her thumb and her forefinger. That I was conceived
on the periphery of some unfurling dream.

 

I walk along these city streets and think about my mother, who watches me from
small Starbucks corners, and passing strollers. What is she thinking?
Why doesn’t she call to me, shout the name she placed among the many?

 

And suddenly, I feel faceless and alone among the streams that flow
painfully and across me here.

I am, and I am becoming. Somewhere beyond my conception,
an extension of my mother stretched all throughout this city.
Hardly remarkable, she watches herself wander around
a corner and down a pathway, an imprint of
a torn off piece of paper placed in a hat.


 

As these poems deliver us into April’s waiting arms, consider signing up for our print and digital subscriptions to get more breathtaking feminist writing and art, right at your doorstep.

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