Poems by Stephanie Ambroise
Her kindness tasted like the smoke of a charred house,
something left behind to rise in the wake of tragedy. I count
the grey hairs that slithered on her head as she bent down
and told me why she left China.
“My husband wanted something different.”
I wondered if English cut her tongue the first time she spoke it,
or if she held it to her chest and inhaled the novelty as if it were
a newborn. Language can be a leech that feeds on the memory-blood
of your ancestors. Language can overfill your life with yesterdays.
Language can make you forget your real name, how to perform your
people’s magick, which foot leads, and which foot follows.
I say, “My mother did, too.” I don’t say that when my father
left us, she stayed and bore us here to do something for someone
else’s good. I don’t say she’s homeless. I don’t say it wasn’t
gas masks, metal rods cowered
underneath the pressure of overabundant
friction. my brother left old skin
behind, in the rubble.
the tremor of neurons, or hands, or lands
is cause for alarm (which is a tremor of neurons),
(which is the reverberation of slammed gates)
(which is the shiver of throat borne from a white, chalky epicenter)
(which is a shaky aorta the doesn’t affect him none)
(which is a shriek burst from quivering chords)
were there any casualties? Was anyone
stood beneath the frame of this felled house?
Even now, echoes escape esophagus
in the dark of night to meet a cold door
with slits that can do naught but disregard him.
no one bothers about the casualty that’s the disaster
hearts don’t reply “yes” when twitchy fingers knock,
the blood from the wound that speaks does not get wiped
away. you’re simply left a statistic, with a name
and alone at night, the shelterless crunch of toss
and turns, a body begging a bed for comfort.
A Name to Life
I wonder why red. Why the borders of her lips
were traced with such a fiery and rough-cut color. why she picked
aftermath of war to wipe on her face. I wonder if she looked in the mirror
before she left.
She is beautiful in all of her glory, and she makes me think
of women who cook for husbands who kill, of women who kill
for husbands who boil rage in their gut, simmer
poison in their intestines to have erupt across
I wonder why me, why her smile, why my name
squeezes a crinkle into both eyes, why crow’s feet, who can take
flight, clawed onto the face of such a woman, stuck
I think your swallowed story is mine.
I have dug both hands into old stanzas in search of an accent
that’s left me bereft. I stubbed my toe on an arrhythmic couplet and lost
all sense of cadence. I spoke aloud and snapped my fingers, and no birds flew fearfully
from any nearby tree. I have sunk into a soft “t” one
too many times, without the assertive thunder of speech
to lift me out.
So I wonder why she, why her smile…
emotions at the sea(ms)
before writing, the heart must
bear the slowness of a wave’s crest
as it laps the grainy shore, a confident
arrival to the uncertainty of myriad
minute minerals who’ve built homes
on top around beneath behind each other,
prepared to burst at any minute
with an infallible sense of trust
only to fall away at the first,
Stephanie Ambroise has been writing poetry since she was eight years old, and in mid-January of 2016, independently published her first book of poetry Sophrosyne: A Shroud of Poetry for Amazon Kindle. That same year, she got her poem “I Don’t Know” published with Unlikely Stories for the#BlackArtMatters issue.