“Bring Back” – Rosamond S. King

Image: IMG_9737, posted at Flickr by Liberté, Égalité, Safari under a Creative Commons License.

There are more things to worship than the childhood gods you’ve been given to hold. Ask Rosamond S. King’s “Bring Back”, which opens her staggering, revisionist debut collection of poems, Rock | Salt | Stone. Revising what, you ask? “Bring Back” takes you by the black wrist, expeditions you to the unsheltered cradle of your nursery rhymes. Pull a halcyon classic down from the shelf of memory, and hum to it: “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”. Good. Now reopen your eyes, and sing the tune to the gods of your choosing.

Eshu is here. Oshun. Ogun. “Abiku cries down by the river / Don’t bring back that body to me.” The dreamscape of the poem draws on Yoruba creation, a realm that has never spared any thought to the lullabies of white empire. Have you heard Rosamond incant this poem? If yes, you’re not likely to ever forget the call it stirs in your bones. The poet’s sense of daring, saddled up to her dervish of linguistic play, are everywhere in these spare, yet history-dense lines. If the verse were only historically resonant, that would be one hallmark, but King sings them into being. They are dread chants, concealing as they are baring, invitational as they are tendrilled with secrecy.

The poem tells us: “My history lies under the overt / My heritage beyond the seen”. Is this not, of itself, its own mystery of faith? All I need do is dwell on the resonance of Rosamond’s voice, and I’m drawn back in time to this invocation: her voice, the only fixed star by which to steer myself to a history, a herstory, a gleaming black knot, unravelling in the firmament. It’s not a gauntlet, this poem: why, it’s a map to a place you thought you would be denied welcome. Dream in.

Read “Bring Back” here.
Rosamond S. King’s Rock | Salt | Stone won the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry.

This is the thirtieth installment of Here for the Unicorn Blood, a Queer POC Poetry Reader which runs from June 1 – June 30. Historically, June commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, heralded as the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. #PrideMonth’s global significance, its unabashed celebration of queerness, its marshalling of non-heteronormative joy, resistance and tenacity, motivates this close reading series, which specifically engages the work of POC Queer Poets, in international space. People of colour have been vital to queerness before queerness had a name: this is one way to witness that, to embed my reading practice in it, and to raise my brown, queer fist in yes.

“Sea Garden” – Rosamond S. King

Image: corals, posted at Flickr by denAsuncioner under a Creative Commons License.

Full fathom five.

Rosamond S. King divines the skeletal patterns of corals, in “Sea Garden”, a brief poem full of the rich, and strange. The poet doesn’t lean on The Tempest to populate her underwater realm. Rather, she signals the sea change within the sea itself: how sand itself can be made of coral and bone, how beneath the inky envelope of the ocean surface, life roils and teems — life, and its vibrant opposite.

The poem draws on families of coral, beginning with alcyonium digitatum, dead man’s fingers. Deceptively simple, we read of coral lineages, of the homes of fish, and these clear, vitreous images yoke us like sargasso, til we find ourselves by poem’s end on the floorbed of the sea. Such is the progression of the poem, which mounts in us like the graceful, deliberate pressure of water.

Yes, the poem concludes by telling us what we can see from the surface, but which one? It is possible to be at the top of the world from the bottom of the sea, after all. In this short terrain-unsettlement of verse, that couples bone and anemone, that considers for us the composite matter of earth, wrought by geology, engineering and mystery, we do not suffer sea changes: we are re[de]boned by them.

I tilt my chin to the port of call King’s poems provide for precisely this: a renegotiation of what I think I understand about ocean, about destabilizing complacency, about how you sing the body through tide and brine and the radiant symmetry of polyps, uniting.

Another ocean poem, you think, I’ve been there. No. Not this ocean. Not this convergence of sight, density, and conjure. Every seabed is a graveyard and a cradle. Every coral reef a natal bed, and an antechamber for the dead. Submerge.

Read “Sea Change” here.
Rosamond S. King’s debut collection of poems, Rock | Salt | Stone, is a finalist for the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry.

Puncheon and VetiverThis is the sixteenth installment of Puncheon and Vetiver, a Caribbean Poetry Codex created to address vacancies of attention, focus and close reading for/of work written by living Caribbean poets, resident in the region and diaspora. During April, which is recognized as ‘National’ Poetry Month, each installment will dialogue with a single Caribbean poem, available to read online. NaPoWriMo encourages the writing of a poem for each day of April. In answering, parallel discourse, Puncheon and Vetiver seeks to honour the verse we Caribbean people make, to herald its visibility, to read our poems, and read them, and say ‘more’.