The Spring’s Last Drop

We present this work in honor of the 10th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Catherine Obianuju Acholonu
1951 – 2013


I can still recall their laughter
As they spoke of ‘lost virtue’.
I, Obiajunu
I have learned to live in scarcity.

So, cautiously,
i choose my steps
labouring up the steep hill
bearing on my head
in a clay pot
the spring’s very last drop

but from the bushes
a sweet melody
streams forth
and fills my ears

and the body
is tempted to sway
leading the feet
off the straight path

and the eyes
are tempted to stray
to find the source
the giver of temporal joy

but i must hold fast
my pot of spring water

Though the seller of clay pot
never makes the ‘customer’
though the carrier of clay pot
be the mother of an only son
and though this tune
vibrating in my ears
tempts me to dance
to sway my hips
in unison
with it

yet i cannot lose it
this stem
this prop

i have laboured up this hill
through toil and sweat
and i cannot spill it
this water so pure
so clear and sweet
the dying spring’s last drop

i obianuju
i shall provide my children
with plenty
i shall multiply this drop
they will never taste
of the wasted fluid
of the sea


Ifi Amadiume
b. 1947


For when we were
Young and playful,
Our joyous laughter
Rang out echoes through
Every street,
Enlivened by our boundless

For when we were
Young and playful,
We would jump buses
Standing or moving,
Ticketless to nowhere
And everywhere,
Knowing no limits,
Knowing no particular
Place to get off.

For when we were
Young and playful,
I met a stranger then,
Caring little about
His looks,
Just being young
Curious and fearless
On a moving empty
London bus,
But for us restless
Young and playful ones,
Filling up, No,
Taking over an
Empty London bus
To make life anew,
Posing, loving us
And strangers in
Boundless youthfulness,
Knowing not,
Caring little
What we were,
What we are
Going to become.

Praise to the mother of Jamaican art

Lorna Goodison
b. 1947


She was the nameless woman who created
images of her children sold away from her.
She suspended her wood babies from a rope
round her neck, before she ate she fed them.
Touched bits of pounded yam and plantains
to sealed lips, always urged them to sip water.
She carved them of wormwood, teeth and nails
her first tools, later she wielded a blunt blade.
Her spit cleaned faces and limbs; the pitch oil
of her skin burnished them. When woodworms
bored into their bellies she warmed castor oil
they purged. She learned her art by breaking
hard rockstones. She did not sign her work.


Fatemeh Ghahremani
b. 1991


A tear drop alights
From a car that crosses my eye
And stops
Behind a light that embodies red
And then drops
into bumps and coughs
And pulls a hand break
Like a light that turns amber
When the street is quiet

If I don’t run away
In these high heels
To the last light
Someone would want to give me a ride
With hands that go green
like a bud in my eyes
And then blow cigarette smoke
Into my eyes

What a passengerless destiny
My poor tears

Are shot again
My eyes
Got their period again

Translation by Abol Froushan


L.K. Holt
b. 1982


At oldest moon the tanker is aimed at shore
and scuttled like a much smaller thing;
its prow cocked in the unnatural questioning
of a carcass head; its waterlines, doing marked done.
Empty oil-barrels thrown to sea, herded to shore,
then the loosest fittings, then steeliest ego-structure:
all parts can be turned to mutiny in the end.
In the hull’s darkness a man, as taken as Jonah,
falls off a girder and ends forty feet below,
straddling a crossbeam that splits his pelvis in two.

School’s Out

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 25th birthday.

Amanda Gorman
b. 1998


The announcement
Swung blunt as an axe-blow:
All students were to leave
Campus as soon as possible.

We think we cried,
Our brains bleached blank.
We were already trying to forget
What we would live.
What we would give.

Beware the ides of March.
We recognized that something ran
Rampant as a rumor
Among our ranks.
Cases bleeding closer,
Like spillage in a napkin.

There is nothing more worrisome
Than a titan who believes itself
Separate from the world.

Graduation day.
We don’t need a gown.
We don’t need a stage.
We are walking beside our ancestors,
Their drums roar for us,
Their feet stomp at our life.
There is power in being robbed
& still choosing to dance.

Formal Poem

Amel Moussa
b. 1971


In the old house
where my grandfather composed his formal poems
I live as a concubine in my kingdom,
my dress is wet,
and on my head I place a crown.

In the old house
where the jug is tilted
water seeps out
mixed with prayers.

In the old house
where my first cry echoed,
I spread the soil of lineage
for us to sleep on,
one soul stacked next to another.

In the old house
where my grandmother was throned a bride
I search for her shawl
and place it for my shoulders to kiss.

In the old house
I cross ancient nights
and carry food to dervishes.

In the old house
I hand away my embers as a dowry
to lovers bathing in rain.

In the old house
Love wears us like a cape
and the courtyard becomes
twice its size.

Translation by Khaled Mattawa

False Advertising

Christiane Sobral
b. 1974


The first time I kissed
It was my girlfriends who kissed
They invented a flavor, a style, a smell
My lips weren’t there.

The first time I kissed
The prince was chosen by these dreaming girls
He was a jerk to me
A toad, a dragon that spat its fire on me

I don’t know what it was like
They didn’t see my closed eyes
I wasn’t there.

Translation by John Keene


We present this work in honor of the poet’s 60th birthday.

Caridad Atencio
b. 1963


I overcome because I am overwhelmed.
I whip my life into shape,
one tension, one bit of calm at a time,
if I must I give back the distance I run,
if I must I rise and cut something from myself.

I’ve arrived at this hour dragging my body from moment to moment. Surreptitiously I serve up wounded blood.
The story I bear, how will you receive it?
The water I’ve gathered makes itself heard.
Here is the mother who keeps her child
forever in her womb.
And decides she will live, even as she drowns.

Translation by Margaret Randall