Arisa White, “out of line”

For your reading pleasure today, two new poems by Arisa White.

out of line

She’s yelling into my ear.
She didn’t know I waited for someone
to test the nature I was born into.

It is easy to bring her to the floor,
slap her for every day I denied this rage,
for the ways she rendered me invisible.

It is easy and I understand why
beating another’s will is needed
so earth and air can be mine.

Freedom and not-a-single care,
she stops me dead in my tracks:
Hit me, do it, go ahead, do it . . .

Look to see if she is my mother
and there is nothing free in me.

Loss sits difficult in my chest,
its edges mismatched in breath,
I’m wilted and unloved.

See myself pool soft sounds
to drown the gaggle in my head.
(No season takes them south.)

My phone lines burdened and ruined,
I call and barely hear myself
until my fist is held midair.

Mammalian large, continuous I wail
to the ground, I can’t move in grief.
Cry until I’m parched by it.


A Charlie horse passes through the wound
set years ago. Winter in the mountains, the beech
twisted and it was paper we could use. In that
classic way, seen on TV, wanting one day to be
that girl, you revealed your Swiss army knife
and the bark knew we would. Maybe we scared
away the owls who may have nested there
and everything was the perfect we loved. Our
initials traveled to heart, aged our presence
to diaphanous, to shirr between thought and
sometimes we move on. What is planted is
resilient; its shell grows spines, the nut a sweet
portion, hints close to satisfaction and its how I
come to understand our touch. Woodwinds have
memory; I haven’t advanced beyond Twinkle Twinkle
Little Star, and the tapping on the streetlamp was often
opposite notes we shared. We engineered shepherds
to herd our swords, Oakland felt similar disharmony
and built a lake to meet the need for breath and matter.
Water finds scent and apology and people to beach
on its cusp. Reminds the heart there are summer
dresses to be worn, and twirling that happens in them.


ARISA WHITE is a Cave Canem fellow and holds a MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is author of the chapbook Disposition for Shininess. She has received residencies, fellowships, and/or scholarships from Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, University of Western Michigan, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’s Conference. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2005, her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and is featured on the CD WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet. She currently lives in Oakland, CA.