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On the grounds between history and science,
Nelida and I walk, two slips of girls,
lovely analogies of each other.
See our books, clutched to our burgeoning chests;
our skin, nearly matching shades of brown. See
our hair tucked into two low ponytails.
Hear Nelida innocently accent the truth:
My ponytail moves and yours does not.
And it’s true. Hers is a shimmering black
cataract. Mine a stiff processed brush. See
me nod, my hair unmoved. The analogy
blooms and breaks in such stiffness.
There is a mountain going green in its steepness
and the sky is a blue sky and the road,
like every dream road, a red one.
The road is as red as any in south Arkansas,
and the children and women on bicycles
are as brown and beautiful as any children or women
you’d find anywhere.
Sometimes I sing,
little bird little bird
sweet brown little bird
little bird little bird
where are you now
and the mountain answers the valley,
which answers the mountain, I am not alone.
When I run, it is the best feeling in the world,
and I am very fast and made of bone and ligament and muscle,
and where the red road drops away, the valley is green
as the mountain because it is also mountain,
and I am not afraid to look into the deep bowl of dirt
and grass and sun. When I sit, the valley continues to be,
and behind me the women and children,
some on bicycles, some on foot, are moving
not quickly but deliberately, and I continue to sit
my legs holding in place the side of the road that drops
into the valley. I am very strong to hold the earth,
and the women and children are happy I am there
and I sing my little song, and the mountain and the valley
answer us all, and all we are is strong and simple and unafraid.
And when I stand, I am tall and move the wispy clouds
from the little knot of sun, and my skin is very red and very brown,
just like the women and children and some of the bicycles,
and the women clap and the children sing my little song,
all of them now, together,
so that I might hear from such a great distance,
which I do. Then I am a mountain going green in my steepness
and also the valley and also the little bird who did not know she was lost.
What I miss most when I am tall is feeling
small on the red road, which is a dream road, and sitting
or running with the women, who are beautiful,
and the children, who are also beautiful, and I am sad.
It is difficult to be so tall, and so I sit and sing
my little song into the valley and I run on the dreamiest road.
And I stop and I hold each woman and each child,
each brown and red, and we are little birds
calling to each other, our wings long and green.
Donika Ross received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a Cave Canem Fellow and a former fellow of the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, TORCH, Indiana Review, Quarterly West, and Best New Poets 2007. She is currently pursuing her PhD in English at Vanderbilt University.