While some played for chump change,
she played for rain
born of island people stolen
to move the great machines
on another stolen island
once rimmed with hills and green.
The vast teal sea was always near.
She sang when it was blue.
She went within, among the finned.
It taught her to sing true,
and they taught her too.
She watched the clasp and buck of sky
against rasp and suck of sea,
held ocean’s motion dear,
learned the secret of their embrace,
sweet orgasms of exchanging air.
Through mainly empty space
she made water, water every place
lauded in every desert trace for some dry reckoning
she would dance, chant, float and do the beckoning
for many a parched world.
This molecular alchemy was clear to her,
though not explainably, a lucid mystery.
Her own uncherished heart found no release.
What was she? Sky or sea?
She needed to know what to seek.
Some called her understanding magic
and hurried her away as soon as she was done.
Others knew the truth. She might sprout wings and fly,
become webbed, finned, gilled and deep dive;
a steep price paid for the leap she’d made,
to never know peace on land.
A third generation New Yorker, Akua Lezli Hope has won two Artists Fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts (1987, 2003), a Ragdale U.S.-Africa Fellowship (1993), and The National Endowment for The Arts (1990). Recent publications include Three Coyotes, Fall 2011; Stone Canoe, 2011; The 100 Best African American Poems (2010) ; and a short story in Too Much Boogie, Erotic Remixes of the Blues (2011). Hope was paralyzed by transverse myelitis in 2005.