if you fall between ocean & land, white & black
you may not get the best of both worlds

instead you might find void, volatility,
veils, & eventually voila—the grotesque
process of becoming yourself

will unfold, wave by wave: first the pains
of desire, promise of exultation

disappointment of being determined
by your old skins & haunts; then the itch, need for light,
embrace of darkness & all

that is mysterious & holy; & finally
the first step into genesis—

in the background you will hear
your favorite song set foot
across the excessive heavens

& all this happens in your living room, perhaps,
or dormitory; maybe hotel room or
kitchen floor

be aware: anywhere you are you may be
asked to bear witness
to who you will become, learn to swim
eyes open into yourself.




trav’lin’ light she writes
a letter with fingers in the sand, nets herself, bears a shadow
on a sunlit day, ponders the end

of her serial geography— her vertiginous
hair all flames on a dark sun, remains maroon
with vertigo, washed ashore

having learned the human meaning & tinge
of morning’s cringe, the impossibility of arrival
in the masculine dawn—

a ship of a woman going down,
spine of a woman a seahorse shriveling,
scales quivering in the sand—

what is this fresh hell of land? what of the rotting ships
& peninsula solaris,
black crows on a cobalt sea & other

things unseen? what of the shadows that hide behind pearls
or the types of sand that merely irritate? what of the algae
of this skin, sea sponge for organs?

she apprehends her beloved
as though her love is a bottled ship, one that voyages
without meaning into the titanium earth

keeps its message yellowed & stiff & always
half-empty while planning
to take leave into the sky

contemplate with the fishes
the meaning of tide, upturning, pilgrimage,
considers plunging faster than you can say Look!

begins researching
how to remove fossilized armor,
get swallowed into a shore of bones, decolonize—

she becomes you & you figure finally
there is also light in falling, following a current
like a tremor in the dark

there is a victory in gathering emptiness
or at least understanding its contents, the meaning
of laying bare

one’s total nuisance of a body
apart from the delicate wave of a chest breathing,
fighting off erasure, a kind of human echolocation:

to find oneself outside oneself & sing back
to oneself the very song of life—
it is strange to be free

even temporarily & in all this depth—yet there is little
else but to anchor one’s self to oneself
until eventually one decides to plumb the light

instead of darkness, accept peace as another name
for chaos & exchange magnifying glass over stained,
accept to some extent the stains of history—

then so much will be summoned, softened,
become tentative like a promise
or a smile, a gesture of surrender to the splendor

of forgiveness to the soul’s quiet erasure
or aria
into the new.

ADEBE DERANGO-ADEM is a writer and doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in various North American sources, including Descant, CV2, Canadian Woman Studies and the Toronto Star. She won the Toronto Poetry Competition in 2005 to become Toronto’s first Junior Poet Laureate. In 2008, she attended the summer writing program at Naropa University, where she mentored with Anne Waldman and the late Amiri Baraka. She is the author of two poetry collections, Ex Nihilo (Frontenac House, 2010) and Terra Incognita (Inanna Publications, 2015). Her most recent, Terra Incognita, explores various racial discourses and interracial crossings buried in history’s grand narratives.