5 Poems by Monica Hand

Migrants die as burning boat capsizes

What if Noah’s Ark, the first refugee ship, went up in flames?
The two giraffes, two winged creatures, Noah, his three sons,
their wives, humanity lost at sea. What if neither black raven
nor white dove could find a resting place, an olive leaf?
What if, someone lights a lantern to open darkness, but
the light turns to flame.  The boat once beacon, a pyre.

What if the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria never landed?
Instead, without satellite or mobile phone, the ships broke down.
And, what if Plymouth Rock pilgrims went overboard in oil?
So close to shore, but still drowning, unable to swim.

What if Christ himself, brown skinned and lost, couldn’t calm
the storm on the Sea of Galilee? What if when he went to walk
upon the water he was taken into its fiery mouth? Jesus,
another migrant, dead before reaching shore.


Water Lilies

—after Monet

I watch the light change its many colors.
Here, from my little boat on a little pond,

sky, clouds, algae, weeping willow without
edges, no horizon just changing light.

The mutable landscape floats round leaves.
To hold light in a frame is for the bourgeoisie.

Who would try to possess the water’s surface?
Who would flatten prisms of changing light?

Today I’m green. Tomorrow I may be white.
It’s all the same. Light is more than one color.

Black is an invention of man.  Colors change,
close up and from the bottom of the pond.

Day-by-day, night-by-night, I see
my visions shift in the light, ever-changing



Blueberries on the table, food for the gods —
but I am not.  I am a simple farmer
who labors long in greenly grasses and mud
for the purple ambrosia that stills my heart.

Its elixir on my tongue a familiar taste
that guides my worm heavy belly across terrains
in sweet remembrance of an order, ancient
not so careful or discrete, just wholly wild.

This lie, fantasy.  I am no more blueberry
than blackened squirrel foraging
among city stones and weeds.

My body trembles from sugar and caffeine
knows nothing of the foxglove’s silver bells
its poison. This body —civilized and hungry.


Wounding Corpus

This body – its muscles and its bones
its sagging milk glands no use as fare,
slightly curved back and arthritic knees
no good for carrying. Lost vessel.
Here resides asylum & dangerous
thoughts, capillaries of grief & greed
equally measured.  A load like skin,
just like the mammoth’s, I cannot keep
myself cool. This body walks inside
bodies of wounding diction, a fit
inarticulate in its meaning.
To disappear, these unstable bones
rustle across continents, crippled,
a senile beast stuffed into a box.


Le Lavage


Wash over me.
Clean my dirty.
Collect my debris.
Like men in green
flush away filth,
my melancholy.

L’eau et le gaz
à Tous les Etages.

Sweep my sidewalks
with your broom
and high pressure hose
that I may not know
the drowning grief
of the daughter
without the mother.

This path I am,
cobblestoned and
winding, would
otherwise decay
without your mouth
of water.


Read  Interview here.

Monica A. Hand is the author of me and Nina, (Alice James Books, 2012), short-listed for the 2013 Hurston Wright Legacy Award and finalist for the 2012 Foreword Book of the Year. Her poems have been published in pluck!: The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, Oxford American, Spoon River Poetry Review, Black Renaissance Noire, The Sow’s Ear, The Wide Shore, Drunken Boat, American Creative Writers on Class, and Beyond the Frontier, African-American Poetry for the 21st Century. A Cave Canem Alum, she has an MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation from Drew University, and currently, she is a PhD candidate in Poetry at the University of Missouri- Columbia. More
These poems are published as a part of the
Feature of the Fortnight
series by
RædLeafPoetry-India (rlpoetry.org)
This document is rendered complete with the interview of Monica Hand published on the website.