A Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection.
“The Emperor’s Deer” from Starshine & Clay was selected by U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith to be featured on The Slowdown podcast.
Starshine & Clay
Kamilah Aisha Moon
“Breath caught in her throat,” Kamilah Aisha Moon writes of a mother waiting for a son to come home, “when your trachea snapped” (“To Jesse Washington”). Starshine & Clay is a history of injustice and oppression in America grounded in the lives, loves, and despair of individual men and women whose spirits fight on earth and dream of the heavens: “I think of / Joy, Théma, Kerry, Anthony, Phebus. Sandra & those / lynched by cops, satellite spirits who didn’t reach this orbit alive” (“Still Life as Rocket: 42”).
Starshine & Clay, which derives its title from Lucille Clifton’s collection Book of Light, weaves together iconic images of the U.S. such as the statue of Jefferson Davis, Confederate flag in hand, that withstood Hurricane Katrina (“Jefferson won’t be moved—/a bold, living relic of stone”) with the lives of those too often left unnoticed: “Oh broken bewildered girl I wasn’t born to be, break / yesterday under heel” (“Eternal Stand,” “These Are the Breaks”). Yet amid the tragic events on which Moon’s poems look, these lines offer, if not solace, then a reason for hope: “only spirit lasts out here, yet nineteen shacks / stubborn against the horizon. Some of us need / to build anyway—not just visit but live out closest / to the ominous, beautiful truth of it all” (“Day At the Dunes”).
Moon’s astonishing follow-up to award-nominated She Has a Name brings us solemn villanelle and freewheeling rhyme, sculpted minimalism and sprawling lines. It takes such range to see and hear America today, and Moon is a poet whose voice we need, whose tenderness and determination can help us look beyond as “We are left to imagine the day / it won’t require imagination / to care about all of the others.” (“Imagine.”)
“LOVE” from Starshine & Clay:
Once you’ve decided (it is a decision)
your skull won’t bleach
in the sun like a lost animal, what else
is there to do in any desert but study at the feet
of succulents drawing relief out of no where,
bristle with lessons? To walk & walk far past
whatever singed—the trudge
of faith every body afire knows until some
inexplicable, glorious flower or face
sirens the water & honey rooted in your cells, rolls
all of the little stones away & roars
without words, rise