New Poetry by Shauna Barbosa

From Her New Collection Cape Verdean Blues

March 12, 2018 

To the Brothers of Cesária Évora

I’m at the jazz bar
staring at the saxophonist
looking for the entry wound.
My curated movements
are all pretend

darkness don’t equal depth.
He’s looking for mind, too.
Me too is not the same
as hang in there. All rhythm
no blue like swinging

arms are all form of measurement.
The sax to body position, dead skin
cells to household dust

flying across the world
doesn’t compare to noticing
your only bookmark is a pair
of scissors, to cut

means leaving the big tune.
No more pretend this place
smells how it looks outside
at dawn on September’s first

turning from hopeful to who
can I talk to alive or six-feet under.
Curated sendoff,

one last wound tune
for my brothers, all colors ranging
bread, coffee, blood sausage, and
gaslight. No one wants

a black mouth brother

I know, you don’t want to be
cause it’s difficult to be
black, Sis

speaking Portuguese at the traffic stop
won’t save you.

This Won’t Make Sense in English

lénsu-marra n. scarf; headscarf

I’ve worn this wig long enough this shit is mine raise your hand
if you’re too tired to wrap your real hair at night raise your
hand if you feel insecure about wrapping your hair in bed with
anyone for the first time I am laughing at my future Instagram
captions if I burn the palo santo he gifted me will it burn the
body just added to my roster

Strology Gemini

This week will be like the week your mother disappeared, and
your now dead uncle taught you multiplayer solitaire. Bet the
money you saved in high school that you will hear the chains
falling. Break every chain, the gospel. Commit to thinking
in terms outside of your bones. They move. Then they don’t.
Your insides twerk, up and down, back and forth. Gemini, this
week is the accent you have, but refuse to use. It’s time to move
through life with your head open. Your solitude will roll down
the street smoking, using language as a thing with which to
shoot. Your throat will feel like a drain. Hair hugging metal.
Forget about unclogging; go on with your days. Hide your face
from children when crying in public. Your one good uncle will
die as you dance on top a table. If you look directly into the sun,
document the day anger (your mother) took your hand and did
a crazy thing—held it.

Small Town & Terrifying

If I listen to the news tonight, I won’t come.
On mute the television anchor exchange sounds
like, Do you remember what you used to do.
Looks like, Do you remember what we did to you.
I think the lady anchor’s saying, I’m the only
taste you can describe without referring to notes,
my scent, the way home without roads. Man
anchor thinks she needs a new city dipped in holy
overcast, daily drama, and daily migraines
false remedied with vinegar, washcloth, cold water.
If I unmute, I could unfocus the idea of private
property. In Santo Antão, when a landowner’s
animal wanders into or destroys the garden
of her neighbor, the owner of the garden seeks
punishment. I await penalty on his lap.
In Boston, everybody’s plan out is to flip houses.
I’ll pay for the part of my elaborate pretending,
but there’s no faking, I prefer my eggs over easy
I just can’t make them easy for myself.

From Cape Verdean Blues, by Shauna Barbosa, courtesy University of Pittsburgh Press. Copyright 2018, Shauna Barbosa.

Shauna Barbosa
Shauna Barbosa's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Virginia Quarterly Review, the Awl, Colorado Review, No Tokens Journal, the Atlas Review, PANK, and others. She received her MFA from Bennington College. Her first book, Cape Verdean Blues, is available from Pitt Poetry Series.

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