Sestina for my sisters

Poetry by Amanda Gorman
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The stones come to dance; parachuting up, four
black rocks gasp slowly for air like fish in a daze.
My feet dart ripples in the water, cool and neat
as knives. Wind aching to peel down my pant-
ies. It sings my skirt off my skin, ripped in fishbone-two.
It wants inside me, the Black Girl Reading by the River.

And I may just be the Black Girl Reading by the River,
but there’s something too-familiar in what the wind runs tor-
ward. The thought churns blood-wild, iron softened into dew.
I tell the wind I’ve seen worse things than dress billowing: a gaze
that killed me. A boy that took, dressed as a man who pant-
ed on my face till it burst. Till. Till. Till. My red tissue was eat-

en white. His lips rolled thick like sausage meat.
Thanks to him my tongue always sags with cotton. Words quiver
in my mouth marred by moths. Many men I’ve met can’t
name themselves. Don’t know you can’t bloom what is broken or
ajar or worse. Look at the stones popping up and out like the craze
of a foal’s kneecaps. Does the river roll for the town it lamplit blue?

The sun, a golden retriever, chases the stick God threw
over the horizon (unlike the wind he didn’t catcall in the street),
the egg-white beast running till the yolk of a thousand Sundays
fills my throat. I think of choking. His erection was like a frozen liver,
hard but of so much flesh. Here my body tips at right-angles to pour
him out downstream. After the breaking I was dust-bodied, a pant-

her cremated. Six-year-old me thought myself participant
to my own Jenga. At least the wind had the manners to chew
me gumless when he salivated me whole. Took his time for
the quenching. Do boys think of rivers, of gasping rocks, of heat?
Lust stark as awaited rain? Black Girl as a thin crumbling, like a sliver
of rust? I prayed wordless for my pupils to pool into hazel.

Now I pray for them to be alive. Then I can sew a dais
brimming with all the Mes who died before Me, a twilit pant-
heon big-boned with the swords of Survivors at the River.
A hill fisted so tight no wind can peel inside; only the many few
who gasped in blackness, pulling oxygen from the mud-sweet.
For once we’d rip loudly from laughter, and nothing more.

Skinned stones jiving in the river wink: Sister, me too,
us too, been blazed the brightest black from this rampant beat-
ing of waves. We always dance when our bodies break against the shore.