Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
They smuggled turnip seeds into the new world by
sewing them in a hem. Welcome, the customs official said.
There is a mystery about people when they leave us:
how does a skipped stone pick the moment to sink?
A donkey drags a plow through the dirt. Later in life
at the circus he will learn to do mathematics with his hoof,
stomp out answers to questions of addition and subtraction,
astonish crowds with his understanding of these problems.
I draw images of who I used to be and drown them in the lake;
I bind them to rocks to prevent them from ever resurfacing.
The customs official sinks crates of contraband into the sea
and wonders where each bullet might have been bound;
the fireworks he hides and explodes the following summer,
his face becoming the strangest colors beneath the bursts.
The snake crawling out of her skin pulls it inside out
like a nylon stocking: I wonder who would recognize me now.
Sometimes seeds lodge deep in clothing and years later sprout
out of gravesites and dresser drawers, turnips for lunch,
turnips for soups, turnips for dinner. I asked the donkey
the odds you’ll ever come back. I waited for his leg to lift.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
Support us with a donation this giving season.
Robin D. G. Kelley on the midterm elections.
What we have achieved this year—and our plans for 2023.