SISTER, STRETCH MY HANDS


BY I.S. JONES


I.

After you died,

the sky reached down

in endless bouquets of rain

or laughter.

I don’t know the difference anymore.

In my childhood chest,

I pull out the shirt you wore

I hold it to my nose & inhale.

The night is clear & ghosts will hear me,

even my shadow obeys.

When everyone is asleep,

I make a fire enclosed by

a prayer of circle salt.

I toss your shirt & say your name

above the flame’s wild unstitching.


II.

I chant your name over the fire,

the night’s mouth opens wider.

Dizzy with hunger,

I pour the recipe into the flame’s hunger:

oleander         bushel of thyme

momma’s grief       sugar

pitch of stars     my blood

The night is a black spell I pour over myself.

I pour the endless over me.

I melt into the night.

Sugar burns & it unravels into a door.

I am running to you then I unravel.

I am endless. I tell myself this to sooth

the burning. I am the tattered shirt

thrown into the flame’s mouth.

I make my coffee the way you used to:

all endless, running thick.

No stars. A ‘no-nothing’ night.

Except one brown baggie of raw sugar.

I pour & each star dissolves into a pitch.

The night is a pot of coffee I pour over myself.

I pour the endless over me.

I melt into the night.

Sugar burns & it unravels into stars.

I am running and then I unravel.

I am endless. I tell myself this to soothe the burning.

I am the tattered shirt thrown into the flame’s mouth.

You died & I don’t know the difference anymore.

You died & I thought I was laughing.




Listen to "Études, No. 2" by Philip Glass, selected to accompany I.S.'s work, below:

00:00 / 05:51
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I.S. JONES is a queer American Nigerian poet and music journalist. She is a Graduate Fellow with The Watering Hole and holds fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT Writer’s Retreat, and Brooklyn Poets. I. S. hosts a month-long workshop every April called The Singing Bullet. I.S. coedited The Young African Poets Anthology: The Fire That Is Dreamed Of (Agbowó, 2020) and served as the inaugural nonfiction guest editor for Lolwe. She is a Book Editor with Indolent Books, Editor at 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, freelances for Complex, Earmilk, NBC News THINK, and elsewhere. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Guernica, Washington Square Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Hobart Pulp, The Rumpus, The Offing, Shade Literary Arts, Blood Orange Review, Honey Literary and elsewhere. Her work was chosen by Khadijah Queen as a finalist for the 2020 Sublingua Prize for Poetry. She received her MFA in Poetry at UW–Madison where the Inaugural 2019­­–2020 Kemper K. Knapp University Fellowship and the Hoffman Hall Emerging Artist Fellowship recipient. Her chapbook Spells Of My Name is forthcoming with Newfound in 2021.