E.J. Antonio

pierced   staccato  by the roar of jet engines
my tongue prepares to launch a memorized fear
into a dogfight against my universe   chaotic   at odds with itself

it has birthed me into a new season   here I am blind  struggling to bind
raggedy fragments of past premonitions   on the unsewn hem
an English nursery rhyme:

sing a song of sixpence

to learn what it means to be solo mezzo-soprano
this diva wades through cerulean’s hematite indigo shallows
climbs over rust’s jagged copper-red clay terrain   mounts the horse of pain

a pocket full of rye   four and twenty blackbirds

let the sun melt this journey into the earth   dust to ash
the way the coffin was lowered    the way the sunflower was tossed in with it
can you hear the arid cry of rose memories shrink into crumpled paper?

when… the birds began to sing

it is the dark matter within a strand of a horse’s mane   that cuts
the air into breathing   not breathing   light  not light   segments of dead
zones    where cell phone signals hide    I am impoverished

a tasty dish… set before the king… and I

running scared of freedom     this is how a widow feels   running backwards
I see where I’ve been fluid    thriving in the center of chaos    the moon
keeps me warm   moving   in the impossible

the queen was in the parlor eating bread and honey…

in my contorted mouth   I am possible   forever
in a black hole of creation   only the light bakes me porcelain
something easily broken by the sonic weight of this uninvited transition


I question the eye open   hours spent staring into night, grandma
tell me how to make heritage
make the bird sing lullabies    I search for my past in the present

pour 1½ cups of milk in a bowl
fold in 1 cup vegetable oil… really

I question the haints in my head   what are the movements of deer when the highway cuts across its path?   does it gallop alongside its fear?   am I a deer
alone on the road bending, grandma?

tell me how to make sandcastles and sweet things hoot like mischievous owls
who  -  who  -  who

beat in 3 large eggs
1 cup sifted flour
1 cup sugar

we have no ladle   just fool’s silver   slotted and un-slotted serving spoons passed down hand under hand   why didn’t they rust or bend or tarnish like the sinner vilified at Sunday service?

I question the waking hour

when I see the sea once more – Neruda

it tells me to grease and flour the pan   then put it aside   finish the thought
before you start in the middle of the next

add 1 box of Pillsbury Plus Yellow Cake Mix
⅓ cup melted butter
mix until the batter is smooth

I question the insomniac, grandma
answer the bird singing hymns in my dream   tell it I want your sweet bread
the sea said

pour me into the greased floured pan
bake at 350 degrees until toothpick clean

I want to feel that little something you made swallow me, grandma    wish the haints in my head could hold me the way you used to   cut this longing the way you cut my treats   into manageable pieces passed generation to generation

E.J. Antonio is the author of two chapbooks, Every Child Knows; Premier Poets Chapbook Series 2007, Solstice, Red Glass Books, 2013. She has received fellowships from in Poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts; the Hurston/Wright Foundation and the Cave Canem Foundation. Her work has appeared online at www.torchliteraryarts.org, and has been published in various Journals and magazines; including, African Voices Literary Magazine, Terra Incognita, Black Renaissance Noire, Mobius: The Poetry Magazine, The Encyclopedia Project, The Mom Egg, and One Word/Many Voices: A Bi-Lingual Poetry Anthology. She is a founding member of the Jazz & Poetry Choir Collective. Her debut CD, Rituals in the marrow: Recipe for a jam session was released in the fall of 2010. – www.ejantoniobluez.net

Return to Table of Contents