A World of Daughters

Say licked clean at birth. Say
  weeping in the tall grass, where
    this tantalizing song begins,
  birds perched on a crooked branch
over a grave of an unending trek
  into the valley of cooling waters.
    The soil’s thirst, lessons of earth
  unmoor the first tongue. Say
I have gone back, says the oracle,
  counting seasons & centuries, undoing fault
    lines between one generation & next,
  as she twirls sackcloth edged with pollen,
& one glimpses what one did not know. Say
  this is where the goat spoke legends ago
    in the ring of fire to deliver a sacrifice.
  To feel signs depends on how & why
the singer’s song puckers the mouth.
  Well, I believe the borrowed rib
    story is the other way round, entangled
  in decree, blessing, law & myth. One
only has to listen to nightlong pleas
  of a mother who used all thousand
    chants & prayers of clay, red ocher
  blown from the mouth onto the high
stone wall, retracing land bridge
  to wishbone. My own two daughters
    & granddaughter, the three know how
  to work praise & lament, ready to sprout
wings of naked flight & labor. Yes,
  hinged into earth, we rose from Lucy
    to clan, from clan to tribe, & today
  we worship her sun-polished bones,
remembering she is made of questions.
  No, mama is not always the first word
    before counting eggs in the cowbird’s
  nest. It begins in memory. Now, say
her name, say Dinknesh, mother of us all.

More Poems by Yusef Komunyakaa