“Monody,” a Poem by Canisia Lubrin

Celebrating This Year's PEN World Voices Festival

May 10, 2022  By Canisia Lubrin


Years from the disaster, of course, they quelled the days
Quiet as six steel petunias scarred by a sun
Though had we trained our lungs for the virile air
such things we’d exhaust in the day’s loose jaw

We’d chew through oceans waiting for beauty
And noiselessness would blow us into plot
Would score our missing speeches on new odds
of coming to this century, trading our metal legs
for black quartz, if fluency helps our becoming new

But it is morning now and the globe in our clear chests
spins us a bluff, breaking into the mouth’s strange depths,
The quiet we drag, vague blood and the rusted silence
of android newscasters disremembering every childhood

There, we’ve ruined the clock: the hurricane hums
Now, fresh soldiers, turn our heads from the line
Of defeat: become our art, we anticipate a future
to turn from again as an hourglass against itself, we are

Deliberate as music, ghostly as sand, and anything
here could be bread, anything here could be the mask
Now hanging itself up on our descriptions, we hear some-
One fluent in living announce

good evening, here is a home to sort,
Remember to open and open it, bon swè
in each wall is an abandoned

peninsula. Yesterday we closed ourselves in the erased
century’s browser-history, here today we are
left to interpret the coral’s need again. They offer
us signs of brilliant corpses, our friends
and their handful of horizons losing even death

to the algae’s good bloom, Babylon shells, a house
did you try the past participle of air, look and hush—
on our way back to war, with an order of suspension
against another home, this window folds our time

our memories bound for the clouds, where they are
mute and undisturbed by sirens storming in our flesh—


Canisia Lubrin headlines the 2022 PEN World Voices Festival events “Carried by the Sea: Caribbean Diasporic Experiences” and “World Verses: An Evening of International Poetry.” For more information about the festival, which takes place May 11-14 in New York and Los Angeles, please visit worldvoices.pen.org.


 Copyright © 2022 by Canisia Lubrin.

Canisia Lubrin
Canisia Lubrin
Canisia Lubrin is a writer, editor, and critic with work published in eight languages. Her books are Voodoo Hypothesis, The Dyzgraphxst, and Code Noir (Knopf, 2023). In 2021, Lubrin was awarded, among others, the Griffin Poetry Prize, OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, and a Windham-Campbell Prize. She is a 2022 Civitella Ranieri fellow and LCB Literature Haus resident, and poetry editor at McClelland & Stewart. The Globe and Mail named Lubrin Poet of the Year in 2021. She teaches at the University of Guelph, where she will coordinate the Creative Writing MFA program.

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