remember noah

you have to understand
it was so hot
sand as far as the eye could see
sand in teeth
a sealess life
every step a sinking a scratch
every storm
more sand
no sweat when we danced
pure salt in our lovemaking
i tried to spit once
it came out like a whistle
my first period
curry powder
old wives
spoke of tears
we thought they were
laughter was
our wettest thing
we prayed often
to no one
we believed
in music
dry palms clapping
dust on ankle bracelets
we threw tabla and daff
caught spirit and sagat
a blaring life
the wailing or caesarean births
widows' eyes
wept wind
even our tongues were
something sun-dried
in every recipe
were babies' first words
you have to understand
we forgot how to be thirsty
mud by then
was primitive

the stuff of legend
only giddiness
quenched us
we were dizzy all the time
in the world all the time
then we heard him
grumbling to himself
something about forty
something about a flood
clad in sheep's wool
he reeked of wolf shit
something about monogamy
something about shelter
i thought:
this must be heatstroke
i thought:
the brain of a six-hundred-year-old
i thought:
he is a conceptual artist
the ark
an installation
his masterpiece
took years
took trees
got bigger
he was our favorite
dirty joke
beloved schizophrenic
then he started preaching
then he kidnapped pigs
things that wanted to eat each other
stuffed onto the same boat
we threw our heads back
we slapped ashy knees
we mooned him
threw hot stones
we streaked
whistled in his face
kicked the baking
laughter was
our thunder thing
the lucky ones died
for centuries
he warned us
condescending motherfucker
foaming at the mouth
sweat dripping
from his beard
how did we miss it?
i have no words for the first drop
cooling the cheek
grandfathers raised their arms
lightning made the children leap
sizzle gave way to drizzle
humidity taught humility
we opened our mouths
swallowing everything
the clouds begat clouds
began to bite us back
panic soaked
our slouching spines
the instruments
drowned first
we played them sopping
out of tune
denial gave way
to rivers
i fell into a puddle
my very first shiver
the shock of cold water
made me orgasm
so all the times before
had been dry heave?
so this was mourning
this was mikveh?
the sky from blue
to za'atar hail
we choked
god's vomit filled our lungs
apologies bellyflopped
reaching went out of reach
we ran from high desert
to highest mountain
to whirlpool
or choral grief
if noah had keen merciful
he would have taught us how to swim
instead he saved
two mice
muttered prayers
shut the door
the best belly dancers
became mermaids
the dinosaurs learned
to fly
we never saw
a rainbow
our grave stones
coral reef

Lenelle Moïse, "remember noah" from Haiti Glass. Copyright © 2014 by Lenelle Moïse.  Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books,
Source: Haiti Glass (City Lights Books, 2014)
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