Undressing the River II

Nehassaiu deGannes

We want to spinour towels about us,but stand in the damp—a tintinnabulation of ankle braceletsshifting, delicately rocking from one hemisphere to the other;our bikini-clad hips are two red equators.The sun peeks through banana fronds,peeks through two copper keyholes of legs and coral pubic bone,peeks through the green-soaked signatureof an island naming and renaming itselfin the slow, dark tickingof tamarind pods, "Waitukubuli" "Waitukubuli"—in the pulsing flash of a cutlass.Black tail switching side to side.To be hushed. To be locked in the shutter'sstuttering cough— Are we a catch?Skin dripping with light. Still.Sit still for the camera.Sweet dregs in a drum? Under galvanized awningsof centuries' shadow of stacked wooden stalls,Women sit still— Hands deep in the knowledge of howto beat coarse cotton clean against the ragged rocks,how to wring provisions from volcanic ash.Cassava! Dasheen! Edoe! Yam! We walk.The cow, now behind us,occluded by a coconut palm:her tamarind eyes; her crown of horns—disappearing in a keyhole of green fire.

Feature Date

Series

Selected By

Share This Poem

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Print This Poem

Share on print
photo of Nehassaiu deGannes
Photo:
Gregory Routt

Nehassaiu deGannes, actor and poet, is author of Music for Exile (Tupelo Press, 2021) and the limited-edition chapbooks, Percussion, Salt & Honey (Philbrick Prize) and Undressing The River (Center for Book Arts.) While her work has appeared in Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, American Poetry Review and elsewhere, she has appeared Off-Broadway, regionally, internationally and in the indie feature, Equal Standard. Grateful for writing time and community in fellowship with Vermont Studio Center, Rhode Island State Council on The Arts, Cave Canem, Community of Writers and Soul Mountain, Nehassaiu lives in Brooklyn on the unceded lands of the Munsee-Lenapé. She teaches at Princeton University.

"Through history, as through memory, these wide-ranging, rapturous poems roam. What they gather— and what they set free— sing and grieve the miracle of 'love’s small galaxy.'"
—Tracy K. Smith, former U.S. Poet Laureate

"How remarkable when a poet can seamlessly make an altar of languages and intuition then feverishly foot-stomp us toward sight and renewal. Such are the gifts in deGannes’ flaming songs of remembrance and refuge!"
—Major Jackson, Absurd Man, Poetry Editor of the Harvard Review

"Music for Exile is a dazzling ode to what one chooses to bear in times of migration. DeGannes’ sojourn through memory and cultural and personal mythology shimmers with candor and undeniable acuity."
—Aleshea Harris, Obie award and Windham-Campbell prize winner, Is God Is

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.