Poem of the Week | January 04, 2021
Diamond Forde “Blood Ode” and “Breath Ode”
This week’s Poems of the Week are “Blood Ode” and “Breath Ode” by Diamond Forde!
Diamond Forde’s debut collection, Mother Body, is the winner of the 2019 Saturnalia Poetry Prize and is forthcoming in 2021. Diamond has received numerous awards and prizes, including the Pink Poetry Prize, the Furious Flower Poetry Prize, and CLA’s Margaret Walker Memorial Prize, and Frontier Poetry’s New Poets Award. She is a Callaloo and Tin House fellow, whose work has appeared in Massachusetts Review, Ninth Letter, NELLE, Tupelo Quarterly and more. Diamond serves as the assistant editor of Southeast Review. She is a 3rd year PhD candidate at Florida State University and holds an MFA from The University of Alabama. She enjoys fish, grits, and R&B.
fat girl nicks herself shaving in the shower,
resents the water that will carry her
blood to sea. Blood, worthless currency,
cannot buy a country but becomes it,
platelets stitching into streets. fat girl weeps
for the blood that won’t return—
how many mothers have tried
such a homecoming, sons and daughters
inking the tarry streets? fat girl becomes
a mother through her looking, has seen
too many children mangled by a sense
of justice. She carries somebody’s child
in the crater their deaths create
inside her—if she could just reach deep
enough, if she could piecemeal her own
plump, how many layers would it take
to make a bulletproof lung? fat girl mourns
the blood muling a persistent path
through the drainpipes. If blood must be
taken, let there be coral glittering
like gemstones at their feet, dolphins pitching
foam in arcs out from the sea. Let there be air
enough. fat girl could be a mother, fretting
the impossible journey of her blood.
I have loved my breath’s every elaborate shape. Sometimes, I watch it waft
its yacht on an October morning’s waves. Sometimes, when winter returns,
my breath rips a rocket—no atmosphere—moon beams at my heels.
Or my breath is a magician posed with fire on her lips. She swallows
and smoke chimneys her neck till she’s volcanic.
This breath tapers like a vial. That one, blooms a jellyfish
or the open mouth of a light bulb kindled to life. I pray my breath exists
in someone else someday—someone who jogs, perhaps. Or at least
someone who doesn’t know what it means to cry on her 25th birthday
amazed to still have breath left to lose. I mean, breathing is a lesson
never learned, though Momma taught me to breathe slow
in the blue bar of a cop’s light—they don’t understand fear
isn’t the same as guilt—but my breath is not a metaphor
so I can’t shape it to a mask, to camouflage, to a bullet-proof vest.
Only my breath decides: its thrusts a dagger in my throat—
maybe my breath understands enough of living to let me end
my own damn self, but the lights hissing in my rearview leave no time
to marvel at what I guess could be my breath’s last trick.
I can’t think about “mother” without thinking about “protection,” and perhaps that’s the through-line of these poems: who needs protecting and from whom. So there are poems (in Mother Body) that are maternal towards the Self and there are poems that are maternal towards a community, but what we forget sometimes is that if motherhood is always interconnected with protection, then there’s always that threat of failure—the failure to protect what’s yours—and for Black women, sometimes learning to mother (in all of its manifestations) also means learning how to navigate our (seemingly inevitable) potential for loss.
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