Angels We Have Heard on High

Black kinfolk lore. Your grandmother had hair so long
she could sit on it. No proof. No cracked, grainy class
photo from the female boarding school. No scrap
of validation: birth, death — Whose resurrection?
One day in the narrow doorway of the great world,
a red river gushed between someone’s girlish knees.  

A great flood — gardens, art, foreign tongues — lost, her knees
under the ark. His hot heart anchored her, her long
hair roped around his neck! A deep wide mouth, this world
of begetting! Had she reached far beneath her class?
Ten births. Each a small perilous resurrection.
“Whose body is this? Whose blood is this?” Woman scrap.

Unnamed. Whose left to remember? Baby girl. Scrap
uncounted in the sibling ledger. On her knees,
nine months, a mother counts. This brief resurrection
Daddy shared at the close of his last sister’s long
journey. Each funeral, a milestone, his master class.
One door swings wide, another shuts tight on this world.

Once upon a time a jewel arose in this world,
a star miraculous from human blood and scrap.
Wherever she walked, she floated above her class.
Whenever she knelt, mist gathered beneath her knees.
The warmest quilt in deep winters, in the long
summers, a soft breeze, a twilight resurrection.

I am a jealous God. Know thy resurrection?
My foot thunders the length and breadth of this, my world.
My gaze is volcanic deep. My shadow is long.
I outstretch my arm and the garden withers. Scrap
rises, falls, is born again on wandering knees.
Know this, ye faithful students of the Master class.

Thus, the jewel dropped into the dust. No high school class
portrait in the kinfolk album. Resurrection
snatched the sweetest milk. “Must I drop to my knees?
Never stand again? Amen.” She shut down this world,
swam to her two sleeping daughters. Forgotten scrap.
No pilgrim prayers? Memorial candles? How long?

“This is My Body.” Each class chants, the world
spins in resurrection. “This is My Blood.” A scrap
hugging her young tight knees. How long? How long?

— listen to Yvonne read Angels We Have Heard on High

Yvonne, the first poetry editor at feminist journals, Aphra and Ms., has received awards from NEA (1974/1984), BRIO (1991), Leeway (fiction/2003), Pushcart Prize (v.6), etc. Recent print publications: Black in the Middle(Belt), Pennsylvania English (2020), CV2, Event, Home: An Anthology (Flexible). More: