Two Poems by Cynthia Manick

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


Mind the Gap


Little E wants a smile like mine,
teeth with a gap so wide
a corn husk and tugboat
could pull through.
Or a submarine, lost sounds
and grunts. Tiny light bulbs
if you’re careful or a string
of Christmas lights looped
through like garland.

Does she know how the world
works? How some of us
are born without 40 acres
and the weight of a mule
on their chest. Like my mother
and Monday mornings –
boarding the F train and two buses
with two children, her own negro
caravan. A sonata full of low-watt
clinics and hurling vowels
like swords. How I often waited
in those long-ass lines
and imagined myself a boy,
a whirlwind digging in the muck
where only muscles and gold matter.

My tongue tries to reason with her
ring against her want - cause
we don’t choose what haunts us.
When I was young I craved closed
spaces, bright veneers, the smile
of Rudy Huxtable or on bad days
Shirley Temple. No one notices
a mouth when Bojanles is dancing.


How a Poet Carries Weight

I’m trying not to become
one of those disappearing things —
exotic creatures, a body
covered by afghans, or a face
behind a opaque veil.

I stopped reading Glamour, Cosmo
and Photoshop Weekly cause
those magazines
they can’t handle
the pine beneath my bark,
the lushness in curves 
the round rolls above the pubis.

How I glitter
from inside and out,
and write odes to ovaries
playing the samba,
sonnets to the urethra 
and contrapuntals of the rib.

How each poem jockeys 
for position like climbing up
a complex DNA scale 
cause I know how to carry weight —

my mama taught me,
to bind the heart to a cave
of scars, manage all 206 bones
in my body, my sister’s body
and yours.

When in doubt I look to Gwendolyn,
Phyllis, and Lucille
standing still in my umbra,
the darkest part of my shadow
and know I can survive
any type of burning.


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Cynthia Manick is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet with a MFA in Creative Writing from the New School. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences, the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Hedgebrook, and the Vermont Studio Center.  Her work has appeared in African American Review, Callaloo, DMQ Review, Kweli Journal, Muzzle Magazine, Sou’wester, Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. She currently curates Soul Sister Revue and resides in Brooklyn, New York. For more cynthiamanick.com