‘Black Ecstatic Ode’
A Poem by Airea D. Matthews

From Michigan Quarterly Review

September 23, 2019  By Airea D. Matthews

Praise to the father holding his sleeping daughter on the 52nd
Street trolley
To the daughter sleeping through the pothole thrum
Praise to the diabetic with shorn feet and sugarcane blood
To the shooting nerve through the left hip and lower spine
To those flying gods on their routes
Praise to the red-headed Rasta and his ganja-laced T-shirt
To the Vietnam vet at Cass Corridor holding his sign
To the sign which reads: “I’m not homeless, I’m just Black”
Praise to the barbers trying to calm the fatherless boys in their chairs
To the mothers trying not to overhear this soothing
To soothing

Praise to razed skylines and ruins
To whatever replaces the horizon
To the lost toddler who refused to speak to strangers
To the strangers that would not let him be lost
To the police who’ve never discharged their firearms
To the neighbors who do not presume to be police
To sustenance delivered or grown or given
Praise to EBT undoing paper shame
To the hustlers selling EBT at Walmart
To the single dads working night shifts
To the work


Praise to sisters in love with whomever won’t love them
To others in love with whomever won’t bother
Praise to the lovers who left lessons
the lovers who left scars
To the memory of topography
raised surface, smooth to touch
To egos’ porcelain shards and leathery ids
fringed edges and the unrecalled
To remembering


Praise to boys who make beeswax fingernails
To little girls who wear fatigues and eye black
Praise to Miss Toto, Bambi Banks, Pearl Harbor
To bombs that never landed
To satellites that couldn’t be coaxed to Earth
To the dreams in bodies that won’t hold a lie
Praise to beauty that doesn’t suffer rules
To dollar store sheik and sleek vintage tins
To rouge, olive oil spray and nicks
To Type 2 wave and Type 4 curl
To wanting to be
To being


Praise to lust’s resurrection
To incising shame’s jugular
Praise to 7 ways pussy hallelujahs
Praise to the fingertips, 5 of the 7
Praise to every nipple manic and downtrodden
To the cock, eschewed, and the cock, swallowed
To le petit mort and box spring bang
To the frictive giving way to sublime
To the littered freeway and ordered garden
perfect parts and locs and press and knots
the impermanent and dead end
To Mikimoto and Medusa’s rocks
To motherfucking slingshots


Praise to the hard-won win against Chronos
To the stone wrapped in swaddling
the psychotic eaglet safe in hiding
the featherless sirens fostering seafamilies
the eye uncrossed, uncrowed
Praise to the overlooking
To the overlooked


Praise to boot houses
To children running over frayed laces
Praise to the old kitchen, half-gutted,
its gnats and winter flies
Praise to mice hugging corners
sweet scraps splayed on granite


Praise to that which endures
To old doors, layers of paint
To years of storm beating solid oak
Praise to the gable roof that is a ceiling
coffered ceiling that is also a floor
Praise to open wombs and caskets
To any mother who must decide either
Praise to what shoulders weight
To brackets and load-bearing walls
beams and spindly skeletons
sacred geometry and tangents
To levees and pregnant summers
the bullet-ridden body
To coilspring and wheel


Praise, soon, to the crown and seed lowering
To both the thorny and fertile soil
Praise to the ground unfastening
To every earthworm bristle
and every seraph’s six wings
Interlocked in songdance of welcome


To the body relenting only to dust
the spirit ascending straightway to stars
Praise to all who rejoice in becoming
To all who rejoice in return

Airea D. Matthews
Airea D. Matthews
Airea D. Matthews is the author of Simulacra, which was selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets. Matthews received an MFA from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. A Cave Canem Fellow and a Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, Matthews is a founding member of the Riven collective along with Marissa Johnson-Valenzuela and Cynthia Dewi Oka. She is an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College, and lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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