for Hannah Hamilton
You wrote of comfort, crawfish boils and Port Vincent – for your father
and the South and all of the things I’ve ever loved or never knew about.
I read more and I learned you: your voice, flat on a paper, but heaving
from aches, jerking from anticipation, and then rising with syllables
slapped together to represent something more full. When I found a way
to trade words with you over coffee and curry in South Mississippi,
a middle-ground place where neither of us held reputations more than
what we’d imagined, I knew you were more than a poet, more than
a culture-fed woman on her way; wild-eyed, you described yourself
a sleepy sheepdog and I’ve yet to understand why. In our first meeting,
instinctually, I suppose, we became locked in a stare-down, allowing
ourselves to learn each other’s breed: similar in the way we claw at truths
and how reliant we are on the packs we run in. Sitting with you that day,
across from your Iranian eyes and pure Louisiana rhetoric, I swear
I eyed your words while you spoke them, realizing they held breaths
of their own: graceful with grievances and with an air of atonement.
I can see now why you write them on your skin. Words deserve more
than the language we bury them in; they’ve earned the right to live.
But Hannah, no one wears declarations the way you do. Yours reach
across the table, grab my hands, and place in my palms maps to live by.
Previously published in Paper Swans’ Chronicles of Eve anthology / Spring 2016