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On the Migration of Black Oystermen from Snow Hill, Maryland to Sandy Ground, Staten Island

What flag will fly for me / When I die?

—Langston Hughes

From a distance, my flag

and star could be you. I could be.

If I weren’t, my body—the place

would still have need of it. No

Romanesque without me. I am.

I am. And the price of my being:

no monuments built me. None

save those cradled in crabgrass,

left for chicory. No monuments

but the air breathed. The history

of arches and burning

hearts. The history of false teeth

and matches. No monument

but the knowledge gained in overrun

gardens: yellow-ringed snakes

and plumage of undiscovered

birds. But the topography

of mountains we have yet

to scale (looming forever

in the haze).

My body, your body—

all our lives we have known

each other. Your arms clung

to porch columns. Mine painted

the fence in whitewash. Mine stood by

the gate and held it, every morning, open.

You saw me once. You do not see me.

My talk to you comes out a backward

cacophony, the chattering of crows

in the field’s distant sycamore.

You do not see me. You do not

see me. No monument

you’d ever recognize. A flutter.

A spring hinge. A flush

of violet above tough stalk.

A line of char in the soil.

A catch, in your lungs,

of cold air. I am. I could be.

from Ghost, like a PlaceFind more by Iain Haley Pollock at the library

Copyright © 2018 Iain Haley Pollock
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Iain Haley Pollock Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.