Ars poetica

this week (start here) this bare and ruined week,

this choir week, this bird week, this west, this take-away —




I used to say lodestone — I thought there’d be one —

a counterpoint — and terrors is not too strong a word —

I thought it might be possible to focus

on the leaves: yellow, some, none, few,

hanging — why is not too strong a question —

whywhywhy — I thought it would stop




the chorus says didn’t we almost and it’s terrible




sometimes words rattle around inside, like a cypher




I was born a color — say umber — I was born without a gift

for numbers — I was born without hot water — I didn’t invent

for hours and hours — say by a harbor — then say

the view from the hills was mineral —  when I was born,

they called me barn, my name confounded —

say I was born to make a statement about nativity —

what to leave out? — the birds had blue around their eyes —

the harbor yawned — the shrieks that woke me

were probably from a small animal in terrible pain —

I was born highly visible because of thinning leaves —

I was born retrospective — no, like this

Chiyuma Elliott is the author of Vigil (2017) and California Winter League (2015). Her poems have appeared in the African American Review, Callaloo, the Notre Dame Review, the PN Review, and other journals. A former Stegner and Cave Canem Fellow, Chiyuma teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.