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Sonia Sanchez, Jon Sands, Richard Blanco: The Balm of 3 Poems

Colorful spheres
Photo credit: Jill Wellington

National Poetry Month is just around the corner! When we don’t have to hunker down in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic anymore, we should look back on these days and remember how often we rely on the arts to keep our sanity during challenging and difficult times. And it’s always there for us in the best times, too. It goes without saying, but without the artists, the poets, we wouldn’t have it. So to kick off National Poetry Month, dive into the verses and lyrical imagery of three beautiful poets: Sonia Sanchez, Jon Sanchez, and Richard Blanco!


Sonia Sanchez’s “Haiku and Tanka for Harriet Tubman” to appear in Collected Poems (2021)


Picture a woman
riding thunder on
the legs of slavery    ...    



Picture her kissing
our spines saying no
the eyes of slavery  ...  



Picture her rotating
the earth into a shape
of lives becoming   ...  



Picture her leaning
into the eyes of our
birth clouds   ...  



Picture this woman
saying no to the constant
yes of slavery  ...   



Picture a woman
jumping rivers her
legs inhaling moons   ...



Picture her ripe
with seasons of
legs   ...   running   ...



Picture her tasting
the secret corners
of woods   ...



Picture her saying:
You have within you the strength,
the patience, and the passion
to reach for the stars,
to change the world   ...



Imagine her words:
Every great dream begins
with a dreamer   ...



Imagine her saying:
I freed a thousand slaves,
could have freed
a thousand more if they
only knew they were slaves   ...



Imagine her humming:
How many days we got
fore we taste freedom   ...



Imagine a woman
asking: How many workers
for this freedom quilt   ...



Picture her saying:
A live runaway could do
great harm by going back
but a dead runaway
could tell no secrets    ...



Picture the daylight
bringing her to woods
full of birth moons    ...



Picture John Brown
shaking her hands three times saying:
General Tubman. General Tubman. General Tubman.



Picture her words:
There’s two things I got a
right to: death or liberty   ...



Picture her saying no
to a play called Uncle Tom’s Cabin:
I am the real thing   ...



Picture a Black woman:
could not read or write
trailing freedom refrains   ...



Picture her face
turning southward walking
down a Southern road   ...



Picture this woman
freedom bound     ...     tasting a
people’s preserved breath     ...



Picture this woman
of royalty    ...    wearing a crown
of morning air   ...    



Picture her walking,
running, reviving
a country’s breath   ...



Picture black voices
leaving behind
lost tongues   ...


Jon Sands’s “Before the Bloom” from It’s Not Magic

One hundred fourteen days since last felt by touch.
Still alive, even that gentle, shy touch.

In order to hold, I’d have to reach—grab.
Love your smell in a room, won’t even try touch.

Need a coat thicker than my body—
Like this whole city’s a gone awry touch.

Calls move to voicemail, romance in poems.
All I feel is air, like my skin denies touch.

Woman in California, neck like an oasis:
keeps her heart in a box when she thinks of my touch.

Four miles this morning, sweat like baptism.
Take one deep breath, feel the whole sky touch.

Could spend my life pretending it’s a long time.
Ripe for the pluck, either live or die touch.


Richard Blanco’s “Imaginary Exile” from How to Love a Country

Dawn breaks my window and dares me
to write a poem brave enough to imagine
the last day I’ll ever see this amber light
color the wind breathing life into the dark
faces of these mountains I know by name,
risen from the bedrock of the only country
I’ve truly lived, resting on the same earth
as this house in which I’ll never rise again—

a poem that captures me making my bed
one last time as the sun climbs the maples
I’ll never again watch burst like fireworks
into fall, or undress themselves, slip into
snow’s white lace. Never again the spring
giggles of my brook, or creaks of my floor.
Never the scent of my peonies or pillows.
Never my eyes on my clouds, or my ears
to the rain on my rooftop in this country—

a poem that finds a word for the emptiness
of suddenly becoming a stranger in my own
kitchen, as I sip my last cup of coffee, linger
with the aroma of my last meal, my hands
trembling as I toss leftovers, wash dishes,
eat one last piece of bread I’ll never break
again, and cork a half-empty bottle of wine
I’ll never finish, a vintage I’ll keep savoring
like memories through my mind’s palate—

a poem that lists which parts of me to part
with, or take: Give up my orchids and dog
to my neighbor Jewel, but keep our stares
goodbye. Leave the china and crystal, but
box the plastic souvenirs. Forget my books,
but pack every letter and card I’ve saved.
Not the gold chains that won’t buy back
my life, but stuff all the loose photos like
crumbs in my pockets I’ll need to survive—

a poem that brings daisies for my mother,
holds her as I swear I’ll return to hold her
again, though we both know I never will.
That speaks with my father one last time
at his grave, and forgives his silence again,
forever. That hopes my husband can flee
with me, knowing he can’t—our last gaze
a kiss meaning more to us than our first,
as I hold his hand and hand him my keys—

a poem ending as I walk backwards away
from his love at my door to open another—
step into some strange house and country
to harden into a statue of myself, my eyes
fixed and crumbling like the moon, and like
the moon, live by borrowed light, always but
never quite, dying in the sky, never forgiving
my fate, in a poem I never want to write.