The Browning

Jacqueline Jones LaMon

Bricks scream. It is the hottest day of the year, and this is saying something. It is saying that the air is a suicidal Mobius strip around itself and the inhabitants of the city are caught up in the tightening. No one gives a damn about decorum anymore; one quick glance at apartment building windows at dusk tells nothing but the truth, if the truth is there to be told. The women and the men walk around without covering, their heads tilted back in reverence to the ceiling fans that only suggest relief. Everyone sweats and smells of themselves. The body becomes a bundle of rising. The body becomes a rippling pool of bettering. The body melts and overtakes the last drop of water in the world. This is a fact, predicted on the internet. Tonight, the city will try to save what little is left of the grid and the grit. The news anchors will still go to work. Those kids will still dance on the motionless trains. But other than that, the difference looms large. The planners and plotters will turn down the dial, encourage our stillness, squirrel away all the power they can.

 
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Photo:
Winter LaMon

Jacqueline Jones LaMon is the author of the poetry collections, What Water Knows (Northwestern University Press, forthcoming June 2021), Last Seen, a Felix Pollak Poetry Prize selection, and Gravity, U.S.A., recipient of the Quercus Review Press Poetry Series Book Award; and the novel, In the Arms of One Who Loves Me. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College and UCLA School of Law, Ms. LaMon earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Poetry, from Indiana University Bloomington.

A past president and board member of Cave Canem Foundation, Inc. Ms. LaMon has taught for over a decade in the multi-genre M.F.A. program at Adelphi University, where she currently holds the position of Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

“Such a vibrant and beautiful book. I truly read it with my heart in my throat. LaMon speaks a language at once as familiar and foreign as love itself—with so much love. There is such a deep quietude to this book. She takes us beneath the covers of what it means to be a woman, to be a mother, to be Black, to be trapped—and finally, what it means to be free. I cannot wait for this book to be in the world. Everything I needed right now.”
—Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award winner and the author of Red at the Bone: A Novel

“With intimacy and clarity, What Water Knows offers us transcendent, lyric language that explores womanhood, race, history, justice, love, and the politics of our identities contained by the memory of water, released by it, or both. Fluid in her craft, LaMon’s powers are fully claimed here. In a poem about womanhood, she writes ‘We were our own fine line, / never crossed.’ Elsewhere LaMon asks a timeless question for us all: ‘What is it you need when you’re fleeing your home?’ The poet’s intuition and intelligence rise and crest without ending, and in remarkable turns of self-knowledge, strength, and grace, the intimations of water are as elusive and marvelous as the poet’s desire. Indispensable and elemental, What Water Knows achieves a truth that does not spare our most primal needs. Aware of the ordinary and celestial energy of language itself, and what it may mean to choose to speak at all in any form, the poet writes, ‘Some would say there are no oceans between us, only / land. I would say it all depends on the direction we choose to face.’”
—Rachel Eliza Griffiths, author of Seeing the Body: Poems

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