poemoftheweek poemoftheweek.com poemoftheweek.org poem of the week
I learned what a bullet does to a back, to a mother.
After every funeral it rains,
I was told that's God crying in Youngsville.
My uncle walked our holed streets
until he died sun-soaked, broken in,
left me young boy and bitter in Youngsville.
Hallelujahs knocked on screen doors,
let the lord in.
We stood on porches and watched the saved
stitch wings in Youngsville.
Black berries hung in my aunt's back yard where we cut
the asshole off a trout,
guts laid on a cutting board in Youngsville.
We were told a storm was a sermon,
lightning horse whips the sky,
milks rain in Youngsville.
Even the dust that lifted
off the fields had something to say- I listened.
Even the grass spoke.
We turned the woods
behind my house into a playground,
the men that slept there its keepers,
their matted blankets new ground.
A day was measured in how far away
from home we could get.
Our mothers took care of our tongues,
when we only wanted sugar,
Pixy Stixs and carmel pieces,
death never stopped wanting,
licked our collar bones like they were covered
in powdered sugar.
Death was never a child, always
had to think of others first.
Before we knew what our bodies were worth
we made wounds the way the sky made blue.
The first time I saw a rabbit
eat its young, I thanked God
for my mother.
The Name I Carry
Mama, your shadow on the wall
is still crying, your mother told me
your shadow doesn't recognize the lines
on my hands,
that your shadow is what the sun touches,
what's blazed always stomped out.
Daddy your shadow's heart beat
is always asking about itself.
How many times must I tell it that it's a man on fire?
What a price
I have on my head.
What a name I carry.
You are your daddy's son.
The way me and my brother, his legs over
my shoulders, make one big shadow
in the yard,
make one big father.
-from River Hymns, selected by Guest Editor Ocean Vuong
PROMPT: As in Tyree Daye's, "The Name I Carry," examine your name, where it comes from, and the weight (or not) it carries. Don't worry about writing a poem yet; just free write on your name and what it means. Once you have a page or two of prose, look for certain words that repeat, perhaps a single word that says it all. Look for Daye's word and examine how he utilizes it throughout the poem. THEN write your poem and see if you can't do something similar. As always, go in your own direction, but the brevity of this poem works, in large part, due to this single word: "shadow.”
BIO: Tyree Daye is a poet from Youngsville, North Carolina. He is the winner of the 2017 APR/Honickman First Book Prize for his book River Hymns (APR, 2017). Daye is a 2017 Ruth Lilly Finalist and Cave Canem fellow and longtime member of the editorial staff at Raleigh Review. He received his MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. Daye's work has been published in Prairie Schooner, New York Times, and Nashville Review. Daye recently won the Amy Clampitt Residency for 2018 and The Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award for his poems in the Fall 2015 issue.