One Poem by Marlanda Dekine

 Ars Poetica: A Meditation

listen to “Ars Poetica” read by the author

⸻after Henry Dumas’ Outer Space Blues

I. Wilderness

with wings i wobble down a cobble road
i left a bottle of brown rum at the crossroads

my limp is getting fuller by the moon
i wonder who plotted

this path, this map
i make my life

i am swift as the spaceships
behind my eyelids

beauty finds me dappled in ecstasy
i found by the magnolia outside

maybe these were killing fields
but today my heart is here,

and there’s no one i desire to destroy
let us live a together that jumps fences

i have had many
agendas i left them at the crossroads too

i am only one in this great wide ocean
of language wielding wonder in verse


i am a stanza of beauty
nothing can counter but me
we are stanzas glory be
to god

if i’m strange when i get there
i’ll have my wings
outer space blues
clearing my mind
outer space hues might blow

all our minds

what if freedom crawls from deep within

oh, cry and cry, ocean
sky let down the rain

i will savor in the mess of mud
draw all my fears near

shake the dust
after i’m ashes
i’ll be an ancestor running free

the sky i choose to see
only growing wider

gather fire coal,
pit me in that hole
i can take the heat

alchemize my soul
it is myself I desire to meet

II. Returning

there are words
                 crawling around to be picked up
words i choose
                 i give myself permission i will not
apologize for the blue
butterfly dancing
in my hydrangeas        memories
there are many things seen
i dream space of no time i
before—of dark sounds beat
evil eye down my back

here is happy
as a crow perched
upon my crown for lunch
at winyah bay i do not require you

and i love big as all that water
big as all that water
holding stories

i ripple out love i
breathe like the live oak i
stand rooted i
speak to you plain

there is much
i have to say
i love myself now
i love myself

this here being which means
i can feel you

III. Out There

tone-deaf tercets
are still gonging bells
syllables of narcissism

run capitalism
run politicians
run U.S.A.’s god

tourmalinated quartz
double terminated points
is me standing here

as a recordkeeper
telling you these are loops
we are living in

there is no time
i’m hands up don’t shoot
sixteen years old & the cop

has e¹ finger on the trigger
in anywhere is everywhere
took 20 years for that fear

to leave my wonderful body
look here is my heart
pumping full of the brightest blue

i am bloody as when I arrived
i soak my pen in its dye
i shift rhythms
invoke reparations
i don’t ask permission
i stand in my power

fear       fear       fear        fear       look       look there
is your heart

IV. Reclamation

when i needed you to see me
i did not write anything
i meant to say
what i mean to say is the writing
is best when I don’t know
where i’m going

where I’m going might be
Black as my granddaddy’s face
topsoil beneath crimson clover
i was shiny and i was for sale
now all i want is growing
a garden lush inside of me

we all grow
when one does
we all know suffering
we are alive

when i realized i was
decay and fear left my front porch
haint blue
began to speak alongside mugwort
gone to seed                     i listened to
cinnamon sticks boiling
on my stove

i put my head over steam of
said hello being we are alive kiss the day

when i entered my third decade of bag lady
i was alone inside, remembering little me

little me who loved stars
feared the night
counting evergreens as i passed by
i think about how much love it took
to survive

V. Risk

a part of me believed
when i forgot to charm you
you wouldn’t stay

it’s been proven            i    the fool
over and over
melting into different parts
of the same face
same empty eyes

trying to get my lesson how grandma said

now i know running
for my life cannot be running from myself

rain flooding my home
all around is water
for me to wade

                                           watching trouble
                                                                                       trail off

                                                                                                    into a rusted storm drain

i pray
thank you every time i remember

1. In Gullah-Geechee culture, e/em are gender-neutral pronouns.


Marlanda Dekine’s forthcoming collection, Thresh & Hold (Hub City Press, 2022), won the New Southern Voices Poetry Prize, selected by Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Their poem, “Ars Poetica,” is the text for a muso-poetic community performance with the award-winning composer/performer collective, counter)induction. Dekine is a Tin House Scholar, a Palm Beach Poetry Festival Langston Hughes Fellow, and a Fellow at The Watering Hole. Their work is obsessed with ancestry, memory, and the process of staying within one’s own body, leaving spells and incantations for others to follow for themselves. They live in South Carolina with their wise dog, Malachi