INSTRUCTIONS FOR SPEAKING TO THE DEAD

by Kim Sousa

Today the planets say Don’t do: 
inadequacy, assuming the worst, 
erosion. And I have already slipped
into some antithetical ether. See, 
at the blackboard of this country, 
I’m clapping erasers and choking.
Erasing my own name. 
However it’s pronounced here, I’ll stop
pushing back. All my friends
are brilliant and American. 
My country was mined 
for its emeralds and my kin. 
I’m still coughing up dust and bone. 
Before the first star, 
the river dolphin is still a man 
and my tio still kisses every tomb. 
All the uncles before him underground, 
passing palm wine and sweet bread
between their blue-lit palms. 
How was it my forehead never 
was kissed by an ancestor—not holy
water, either. Before my mud 
was fully baked—a border. 
They say when we cross
over, we wake in The River. 
My pockets full of simple stones, 
unskipped. My memory unrecovered, 
redacted and stamped by Some Government Seal. 
What if my crossings are already spent?
Already, the dead in the leaves turn away, 
their sibilant voices now only wind. 
And the witch moth that lands beside me
won’t answer: quem é? 

Kim Sousa (she/they) is a queer Brazilian American poet, editor and open border radical. She was born in Goiânia, Goiás and immigrated to Austin, Texas with her family at age five. Her poems can be found in Poet Lore, EcoTheo Review, The Boiler, The Missouri Review, [PANK] Magazine’s Latinx Lit Celebration, Harvard’s PALABRITAS, and elsewhere. Her debut poetry collection, ALWAYS A RELIC NEVER A RELIQUARY, is the winner of Black Lawrence Press’ 2020 St. Lawrence First Book Prize and is forthcoming July 2022. Along with Até Mais: Until More, an Anthology of Latinx Futurisms (forthcoming, Deep Vellum Books), she is the co-editor of the limited-run anthology of immigrant and first-generation poetry, No Tender Fences, which donated 100% of its proceeds to the immigrant advocacy network, RAICES Texas. You can find Kim at http://www.kimsousawrites.com and on Twitter @kimsoandso and @LatinxFuturisms.

Published
Categorized as Poetry