To Mandela

after A. Van Jordan

Mandela (man-del-a). v. [Xhosa org. South Africa.] 1) the action of getting bigger with every year in prison as in, you send us to Robben Island and we will mandela a university behind these walls and yes I can sneak a 800 page memoir out of prison, one toilet paper sheet at a time. 2) to sing the national anthem (Nkosi Sikeleli Afrika) in three languages, as in to mandela a people’s language is to know their culture. 3) to defeat one’s opponent without dishonoring them, as in he mandelas de Klerk all the way to the Nobel Prize. 4) to adorn oneself in father love, as in my son died of AIDS, no shame in the telling. 5) to dance to Hugh Masekela’s solitary trumpet. See also: Ken Saro-Wiwa, Aung San Suu Kyi, Winnifred Mandela. Ant: George Bush, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier.

Published in Harvard Review, 2008

For Harvey Milk

When you reached your arms out

to Dan White did you know he had

a gun? Did his locked jaw warn

you? Is this why you had a camera

shop, to photograph the


Post-Attica Visit

for David Gilbert

I dreamed there was a jungle gym

in your cell, we

trapezed from side to side

limber and flying

the guards heard laughter

and came running

The lotus grows out of the mud

for Dr. Brian Williams

On my last days in Singapore

where Mandarin and Malay

live in skyscrapers adorned

by waterfalls and swimming pools

where guns are illegal

and schools praise the arts


It starts in my toes

straight up from the earth

up through my calves

swirling swirling

around my knee caps…

Elpida’s Art Class

after Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Toys in a Field”

Using borrowed

colored pencils

she draws her mother

with orange and gold

her hair to her waist

Becky Thompson reads from her book, Zero is the Whole I Fall into at Night

Sea Shares Salt    LESVOS, GREECE

Before light
Four in the morning,
a buzzing alerts me to the sea,
scanning for a black raft
until heads pop up,
their arms opening,
as my waving reaches theirs.
Hungry rocks eat the bottom
of their raft, as a father
lifts his newborn to Allah



When my sister was six
and I was eight
she took apart the swing set
on Christmas day
with the wrenches from the tool box
we got for a present
a memory that sidles up to me
as Syrian children
I am walking with
up a mountain pass
run to a swing set in the front


Poems from the Chapbook Justonics

Shakti Dance

Read the poem,
Shakti Dance

We All Held Up Candles

Read the poem,
We All Held Up Candles

She Be

Read the poem,
She Be

If I Instant Message

Read the poem,
If I Instant Message

Poems from the Feminist Formations


Read the poem,

Litany Travels

Read the poem,
Litany Travels

Solidarity, (For)ever

Read the poem,
Solidarity (Forever)