Post-Election Song of Myself

by Cynthia Dewi Oka
Appears in Issue 6 of The Blueshift Journal (theblueshiftjournal.com).

Time walked across the street called midnight.

It left us standing in a forest of pundits and their fluorescent fruit.

Still, it was dim. As water in the bowels of the city, as the impression that I had been here before,

looking over this fear in the shape of a red pudding, trembling at the fork’s slightest gesture.

What good is the fork when hunger is gone?

There is no secret to resurrection buried under the wood. I know I am forcing the opposite of

song to sing.

Does it ever miss us – time, I mean? As it strides into the fire-worked night, the crowds pale with

clenching their fists.

A predator has been elected president.

Strangely, his orange hue reminds me of hope. In the sense that as a child I used to swallow

orange seeds to transform my body into a tree.

Because in place of roots, a displaced people have nerves sparkling with rings far too small for

our fingers.

Binders of laminated identity, and mothballs to seduce time into staying a little while longer.

Does it ever miss us – hung here like lanterns over the monstrous body of love?

I was seven when I tried to pee standing up without a penis. The piss ran hot down my legs, and I knew I had failed.

The latch was rusted shut. In the ditch under the toilet seat, mosquitos bred their empire.

I banged on the door, screaming, “Papa! Papa!” though I knew he would beat me afterward for

trying to escape my body.

This is how I think about race in America. That banging,

because we do not want to die.

A white supremacist has been elected president, and I keep

thinking about the bullets hugged by my friends’ brains, and my father, skin smooth as teeth,

under a thin hospital blanket.

How he drew that last breath and everything behind it:

the buses stained with chicken shit, the ghosts in the rafters who stole his hair
and the combs for his remaining hair,
my mother’s feet black with dried blood,
and everything he was willing to kill in himself

to be here, and hated

in a new way. How that breath raged

inside him, and how I stood at the closed door of his life, with no hammer, no key.

I never did grow leaves, and roots to me sound like Questlove saying, “Time will tell…Time

never stops telling,” which is another way of saying time will not come back to save us,

the body is not a thing to escape.

Here is mine. It is soft and hard at once. It pees sitting down. Sometimes it can exhale a poem

out of the most poisoned air.

It would eat the rusted latch before it gives in.


Cynthia Dewi Oka is a poet, mother, and author of Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (Thread Makes Blanket, 2016). A two-time Pushcart Prize Nominee, her poems have appeared online and in print, including in Guernica, Black Renaissance Noire, Painted Bride Quarterly, Dusie, The Wide Shore, The Collapsar, Apogee, Kweli, As Us Journal, Obsidian, and Terrain.org. She is also a contributor to the anthologies Read Women (Locked Horn Press, 2014), Dismantle (Thread Makes Blanket, 2014), and Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines (PM Press, 2016). Cynthia has been awarded the Fifth Wednesday Journal Editor’s Prize in Poetry, scholarships from the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) Writing Workshop and Vermont Studio Center, and the Art and Change Grant from Leeway Foundation. An immigrant from Bali, Indonesia, she is based in South Jersey/Philly. Her second book of poems is forthcoming in 2017 from Northwestern University Press.

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