Darkling, I listen—

By  |  March 14, 2017
“Hell and Backwards” by Maury Gortemiller, courtesy of the artist “Hell and Backwards” by Maury Gortemiller, courtesy of the artist

Beneath the knotted rows of cane 
that hid me, thrummed knuckle-red,
a belting out—ribs, wrist, my gone warble 
knocked soundless, torched wails uprooting:
What a song to be bosomed with. 
Dawn spits its hours on my singing; 
plucked girl coos sweetest just before
she burns black—all bruise and back-chat.
All rude refrain. Father your deft beat
disowns me. Your croon a ruined heave 
to shun the first blue-shell off me, banged 
drum of my small self, all rue and cutlass 
or budgerigar. What he called me afterwards,
as mother salved the split-back fissures
of his strumming. Budgie. What a sound 
to be pinned under. Tenderly his voice 
gnawed a ditch in me so long I have known
will never close, its hole instead burrowing
blacked-out rooms where scorned men
ransack this waning echo, gored deep until
there was no voice left here of my rioting.
Some nights I still wake three-personed,
trill throat of fire, burst eardrum, blue
field of thirst; a mute psalm battering,
spurned solo. 


Safiya Sinclair was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Her first full-length collection, Cannibal, won the 2015 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, as well as a 2016 Whiting Award. Her poems appear in Poetry, the Kenyon Review, the Nation, and elsewhere.