Poetry: Migration by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

            . . . if I see something happening
                   which I like, I let it happen. . .
                         -Jacob Lawrence

                                         If it’s love flowing freely,
                                         I’m ready.
                                                 -Tracy Chapman

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

an ardor
     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—:
                                     key suddenly
             something from the bottom of the pond

                          something as simple as caution
                          or koi—:
                 at first one giant
             one. then
             the vibrancy beneath the surface splits.

       it’s forty fish making that orange

                          glide == divide.

                                                     I realize—
                          and one flips its silver-bellied self
             out of the water— praise my recognition—


          I’m dying to say each soul
almost isosceles
                 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—:
                         say pre-
                                   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


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