Suzanne Gardinier


Ole Roustabout ain't got no home / Make his livin on his shoulder bone
Work song

He sleeps on one knee One eye open / Taking back part of what the day took
Dreaming of feast & caress & waking / to the sting of the sores on the back of his neck
In a city someone said brown labor lifts / three feet off the ground every day
An hour until dawn & the government / shall be upon his shoulder in the morning

Power in the gloved hand that rests there / & tells him where he can & can't live
Power in the boots over feet like his / kicking feet like his to say Move
Power in the atlas of his body marked / where the state has touched him The scars on his head
His crouch His exhaustion His cursing the day / Little bits of power in the litter at his feet

His stripped back His hands raised for hours / The cuts on his hands sweat stings
Carrying cane to the mill by moonlight / His baby in a furrow of dirt
The arc of his hammer in sunlight What / he sang with his brothers when he was young
I got a rainbow Tied round my shoulder / Ain't gonna rain baby Ain't gonna rain

Can you make it out of ripped warrants & washers / A dream written backwards on a newspaper sheet
Written on pavement with spraypaint & gravel / What the surveillance forgets to delete
Fingernail clippings Where she sprained her ankle / Cigarette butts Eggshells Teeth
Someone whispering to her newspaper pillow / Someone curled sleeping in the belly of a street

Her closed eye dreams they want her papers / They make her wait in a long line
& put her sweat & marrow in vials / & draw numbers on her arm
She dreams she tries to put it down / but they beat her until she picks it up again
While her open eye watches this night into morning / This transit camp This world

Atlas coordinates A1 Olduvai / East to a map of safe houses in Dar
To the fugitives making sweetness from treason / East to a litter of leaflets in Dhaka
Jabbering under the boots of the soldiers / after the dispersal of the demonstration
South to the gassed Jakarta widows / weeping as their state tries to break their linked arms

North by jerry-built boat to the forests / the empire burned nursed back to life
The Mekong tunnels The temple triangle / of justice framing whose unblinking eye
The map of the lines of the people facing / the king's proxy line of village-breakers
Resistance atlas A sheaf of redacted / maps you spent your life trying to write

Made of spit & piss drunk & sober / Sweat bought & paid for Blurred holy writ
Jism on napkins & a woman's wetness / from reminders of what freedom is
What you called wreckage, dreck & waste / my beloved intransigent compañera
I don't want to know you said Whetting the sword / of your listening For her black messages For his

The night he was born he came too early / & the place for him wasn't ready yet
So his place was a place between places / A borrowed bed in a borrowed room
His mother between a girl & a woman / His tree of life a sapling leaning
Against a brick wall on her break smoking / Trying to think up his name

A note from another world & she answered / all that long first night
Singing to him His lips at her breast / Her smell of smoke & sweat & milk
Singing Baby I'ma buy you shoes / I'ma buy a car for you to ride in
I'ma buy a house with a hundred rooms / Come the day Come the day

One body partitioned The parts sent separate places / Calling which of them which garbled name
Assault Saltless Psalter Tell us / Lattice Alter Tallest At last
Someone's cradle scored with the lines she crosses / to find the source of the smoke in the distance
Someone's cradle burned & the ashes made mortar / for buildings he has to pay to get in

Colonial quadrillage V6 Delta / village's stripped young man made to kneel
Then lie down Facing the sky that knew him / as they wrap a cloth around his face
The king's boys from across the water / laughing Crouched in their equipment
Two holding him One filling with water / the hat his mama made

A day's work To remember the messenger / who came down to tell them how to grow food
& made them palmleaf hats like hers / To protect them when the rain came back
The bought boys pour water where they think / his breathing is Someone's whistling
Atlas of the gathering of intelligences / Tiny Womanly Savage Village Black

The yoke harness fit to her shoulders / like the captain's hands when he comes before dawn
Opening sores by nine in the morning / The command to keep on till noon
Dragging a harrow Before sleep bent / over children's clothes caked with shit & puke
& they wear the stiff shirts laced with her fury / Fury in her touch Fury bread Fury soup

Made of chalk & salt fog & See you, girlfriend / Scaffold bolts Putty Nectarine pits
Seeds to scatter & split the pavement / where the statue of the captain is
Mixed with the thin layer of island dirt / over the rock that remembers the glaciers
Mixed with the last words you wrote me And work? / Your version of a goodbye kiss

Grid coordinates Z26 Past lack / & theft & the hidden bridge between
The house to evict you The market to confiscate / The map to make you lose your way
To where the kapok becomes the ceiba / The old ones waving from up ahead
A tear in the seed-coat streaming honey / América In some new day

East to the Algiers of the deconquista /  To the moon coming up over Sidi Bouzid
Surveil this How she changes her mask / every ungovernable night
To Tahrir To Ramallah To every sedition / of being getting born as you left us farera
To the place of uprising The geography of morning / The refractory return of first light

To colonize Verb To create To begin / To develop Discover Establish Explore
Instigate Institute Launch Map out / Originate Prepare Spearhead Show the way
Trailblaze Invent Lay the groundwork / Inhabit Open Pioneer Found
Put down roots Locate Lodge Settle / Abide Dwell Make one's home Live

Looking down Three women Quarried Discarded / Watching now Elbows propped on the sill
& three shamed boys Behind high barred windows / Who can't hear the tv for the roar
& three village-breakers At a long table making / new atlas divisions Interrupted
By the racket making the steel & glass tremble / What the fuck's going on down there

A gapped moon comes up over the curfew / Thinner Did they buy you cheap & sell dear
To hide the notes tucked in deerpath crevices / I was, I am, I shall be
The pigeons' faces smeared with pollen / A block from Columbus where the police horses
Press their breasts against the restraints / & we elbow each other in the ribs & press forward

& move Sending up an old voice we'd forgotten / big & ragged through the streets
Banging the sound against the ziggurats / to figure out where we are
To make a map of a new place As they goad / the horses to teach us what a city is
A many-headed thing with feathers Gale-sweet / Running from armed horsemen leaning down

A man running who said I have no sister / Who you call my sister is dead
But he keeps beside her & she who scorned him / helps wash the gas from his eyes
In the dance of looking for a sister to stay with / To lean on when the horsemen come
Of looking for a brother to be true to / A brother who would be true

Pockets full of matches & lemons & leaflets / A line of dancers & a line of shields
You're up all night watching Coffee & lesions / on the bones that ease looking away
The riffraff covey's archipelago swagger / Strangers yelling across barricades
Baby I got you & All night Till morning / Sweet things only lovers say

& you're with us You & Muriel laughing / in the streets of a city whose sweet names you knew
You with Rosa's sharp eye on the fledglings / On the old world's days numbered one by one
The rain on your hands in the prison garden / You'll know her by her walk someone said
You who never took one grown step without pain / Deep movement sister who taught me to run

For that we kept beside each other / In a place they said wasn't ready yet
For that I knew you Your verve & persistence / Your laugh in the pit Your dance in the yoke
As you made your living The traces lasting / generations in all directions
As you locked arms & turned in the bitter wind / toward what you lived for A glimpse of a free place

Toward flesh In its clenched or loosened beauty / In its integrity In its needs
Toward the streets Calling to where Rosa heard / the sycamore nightingale after the rain
& toward words Baby I'ma help tear this shit / up End to swindled end Tear it down
to the free place to come & all flesh / shall see it together Come the day

for Adrienne 1929-2012 & for Isaiah 2012-

Suzanne Gardinier is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Iridium & Selected Poems 1986-2009, & a book of essays on poetry & politics called A World That Will Hold All the People.  Her essays have appeared in The Progressive, Parnassus & The Kenyon Review, her fiction in The Paris Review & Fiction International Artists in Wartime issue.  She's received awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts & the Lannan Foundation.  She teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College & currently runs the Sarah Lawrence study abroad program in Cuba, & lives between Manhattan & Havana. You can find her on Twitter at @SGardinier & via her website Fruitful Place.