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The River Wanderer

By Yona Harvey

There was a river turned to   Goddess.       Was kin to river turned to Flame.

               As a child I dreamt that river.  None could   keep me from that vision.

They lowered me in the Mighty Waters. Lowered me in the Creek of Shame.

               Others tried the Brook of Whispers.  None could save me.  None could, save me. 

Still I dreamt the River Snowdrift.  To my kin, I made no sense.  Those folks

               out    there shall never love you
, said my Preacher.  Said my Pa.  Still

I shivered when I     wakened.   (Ganga of Glaciers, Ganga of Snow).  Left with Mama’s

              only bread.  Left to find the cold that called me:     You my sister.  You, my sister. 

Come now sister, ashes & all.  (Ganga of Glaciers, Ganga of Snow,   Ganga of Forgiven).

               Wash me now, sister.  Rest my shoulder on the shore.  Lift my ashes

to your   sky.  Once our Mama raised our arms: so we could speak the sacred tongues.

               To speak in tongues was to      relent.  To call the water that would drown us—

firmament.  Torrent, let go.        Torrent, let go.  I’ll meet you at the River’s Bottom,

               dressed in silver scales with fin.  You’ll clutch       my hand, we’ll swim in circles. 

Taunt the serpents, taunt the sharks.  & when the glaciers get to   melting,

              all God’s River’s we shall haunt.  All God’s Rivers we shall haunt.



Listen as Yona Harvey reads "The River Wanderer."

Added: Tuesday, December 11, 2018  /  From "Letters to the Future: Black Women/Radical Writing," (Kore Press, 2018). Used with permission.
Yona Harvey

Yona Harvey is the author of the poetry collection, Hemming the Water, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award from Claremont Graduate University and finalist for the Hurston-Wright Award. Her work has been anthologized in many publications including A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry and The Force of What’s Possible: Accessibility and the Avant-Garde. She contributed to Marvel’s World of Wakanda anthology and co-wrote with Ta-Nehisi Coates Marvel’s Black Panther & The Crew. She is an assistant professor in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Other poems by this author