they say we’re married to dirt, ground-bound & sure to bend. break
these bones & call us a miracle, kiss our feet then call us
backward. sisters, when will we braid our hair
despite their songs? i gather seeds from alluvial beds, save tamarind
peels & pepper stems & cardamom pods—who’s to say
what will ward off or invoke. our name wasn’t given. doesn’t have to mean
tie them to the deep & save our men. once, dan, dakan, daayan
sounded like fingers brushing reeds apart, meant wisdom beyond
keeping them fed. sisters, they starve us & call us hungry bitches, kill us
& call us undead. come with me to the central rooms, our lineage—
flowering harvest & the machine we built to feed them
through monsoons. smell that raindark, that incense rimmed with milk?
that’s us. deserving a true feast. let’s toast : to our own next-
good-thing. to faith in roots, our unsung shoots.
Raena Shirali is the author of GILT (YesYes Books, 2017), which won the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a 2018 VIDA scholarship, a 2017 Philip Roth Residency at Bucknell University, and a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize in 2013. Her poems have also received prizes from Cosmonauts Avenue in 2016 and Gulf Coast in 2014. Shirali’s poems & reviews have appeared widely in American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A Day, The Nation, The Rumpus, & elsewhere. She recently co-organized We (Too) Are Philly—a summer poetry festival highlighting voices of color—and serves as Poetry Editor for Muzzle Magazine. Shirali lives in Philadelphia, where she is an Assistant Professor of English at Holy Family University. Learn more at www.raenashirali.com.