Poetry: Migration by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
. . . if I see something happening
which I like, I let it happen. . .
If it’s love flowing freely,
Black is an ardor.
Color moving as
wholeness—yellow migrates blouse to light handle to bell green
migrates button to satchel to wall blue migrates coat to sea to night
sky—finds an order. Black is
of smokestack cirrus birdflight
boll stem. Against spikehead
slipper judgerobe nooserope—: Hair.
Fatback sliced on a table is a block
of pink stripes falling
open as a story’s pages
bout to be sliced and served.
Please, pass me the last bit
of summer. August’s green
glide into overlays of gold
shivers of goldenrod borders against a shirring sun-gilt pond.
Here I sit. See
if you can’t find Jacob’s process
in the snake-anxious way I crossed the grass
to get at shade—
I’m still southern—
in the silvergrey whisper of underleaf
the breeze brings up.
Green is a table
upon which that narrative of pig
and hunger sits until green
is the sky at the top of
a labor camp stairwell
holding the moon. Or
is green the door the yellow
moon a large bright knob
to turn to exit these quarters?
if yellow is a question—:
of travel of red
of orange alerts—:
something from the bottom of the pond
something as simple as caution
at first one giant
the vibrancy beneath the surface splits.
it’s forty fish making that orange
glide == divide.
and one flips its silver-bellied self
out of the water— praise my recognition—
I’m dying to say each soul
in her flair, in his onward press
slants in slant rhyme to Mississippi’s mouth—:
if I’m lying
I’m dying to count
every dropped leaf
every spent petal towards black potential—:
historic swamp heat—
peat—process: fossil fuel—
to make a seam—
the total black pealing
outside St. Louis all week
beneath a hard blue
repetition—: young black men
dealt death == unseemly.
What’s true about this man at 23?
He’s gone: to books in fall, to studio
in spring gessoing boards with Gwendolyn
with whiting and rabbit skin glue to keep
the fibers of a story in his head
set when it’s cooled and dried. He moves to set
its rhythms to a palette set its tones
in casein colors. What it means to move—:
prepare. Then let the living thing beneath
a scene still breathing breathe, as memory does,
alive, beneath the egg, and milk, and pigment—:
Four hours in the street a body lies
betweendimensions—: Jacob’s :— north whose figment
the finished :— panels draw him—: south :— he flies…
Write about movement where it is most still.
is arduous: in riot a raised baton in burning
building what’s behind the cracked window.
The SWAT van that appeared suddenly and sat for twenty minutes outside your house drove
you from porch to pond. You wondered where a sister might find some peace though you know
you never use the word sister like that. You wrote where I sister might find some peace then revised
it. You’re telling the truth—a correction. The I in you corrects. It rises like something from the
deep. You’re not even at the pond anymore but still you want to feel outside like you want to
write rise over run. You’re in a rush to work some delta in
if you’re me
Dirt moves you. In music the dirty
writhes you further into this writing—
prof you are the proof is in the Plies
though it’s hard to admit. How his
what that mean tickles your that—:
means you :— recognize
What you do
to me baby it never gets out of me
You want him in the picture so write him too
through Jacob’s rows. Like flames of green
crop streak squashblossomed color stripes soil
go with your ratchet—: Negro
who had been part of the soil…
now going into and living
a new life in the urban centers—: go
with what moves you.
What you do
to me baby it never gets out of
me Reaching …2…3…4…
pigtailed girls at a chalkboard, stretch reach.
Mark this black—: river this :— Black is ==
an ardor, from dirt summer
scent of slate scratched up— Rock with what moves black
bodies What you do to me baby’s beyond chalk borders Freely
filling its it it’s == black] black [-fully free it never gets out of me
via MoMA: The Migration Series Poetry Suite