Friday Poem

the poem requires

A long time ago
A brilliant woman once told me
“The poem requires what the poem requires.”
I carried it with me
Trying to write the shackles off my wrists
Loosen the gag from my tongue
Wedging a pen between my past and future
Yet it is only now I realize
That I was the poem all along

Do you know what it feels like
To stretch the lyrics laced across your shoulders until they fit
One line of prose to be cut and devoured and reassembled again
To make metaphor of the little fires dancing behind your eyes
Praying that they don’t melt everything unrecognizable
To make hyperbole of the salt water bodies hiding in your lungs
Until the fight feels better fought from the outside looking in

Do you know what it feels like
To have the hand of God quiver ever so slightly in the midst of your midnight tremor
To wait for the chain of despair to sink to the bottom of the bloodied ink on the page
To hope that the tears streaming from every pore don’t give away the very last of what is left

I always thought
The poem didn’t know what it required
It was my job to manipulate it beautiful
Twist and bend it until its acrobatic instinct overwhelmed the scales
Stack mountains within its stanza so the valleys no longer exist
The plateau never comes
The limits never return
I always thought it was my job to carve the poem
Line by line
Until the bittersweet taste felt like a psalmist praise
Shake the fruit from its limbs
So that when it reaches the ultimate resting place
It forges ahead alone

But the poem requires what the poem requires
Without the personification of fear
Without the seamless perfection of imagery in the ghost of a former self’s likeness
Without the internal rhymes internal destruction
Without the word play no longer having fun

The poem requires what the poem requires
And now
Life can finally begin

by Najya Williams
Split This Rock