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Makalani Bandele

the bridge: sirius b and the dogon

enter the chorus, elongated,
skyward-raised arms of néré[1],
praise. vessels of juke,
herald the close of an act

of offerings buried
in escarpment’s face--
lyrical crevices. a sprinkle
of elephant bone wishes

cast upon painted ground
map the chords. in a gaggle
of beats, beyond
category, as if of down,

gatekeepers, tellem[2] people, soar
song high, exit time, twinkle
a bit, then return, glissando,
as their own descendants,

travelers, in search of words
all the instruments know
when they find them sweeter,
in the groove where they left them.



[1] A tree that can reach 20 meters in height, grows in sandy soils, has an umbrella-shaped crown, and a long, flat, slightly curved fruit pod. It’s wood is highly sought after in Mali for sculpting.

[2] The Tellem were the people who inhabited the Bandiagara Escarpment in Mali. The Dogon people migrated to the escarpment region around the 14th century. The Tellem were pygmies or "small red people" who built dwellings around the base of the escarpment as well as directly into the cliff-face.



(for Lucille Clifton and Ellen Hagan's unborn daughter)

make peace with it; coax ink to spill—
mercurochrome to clean wound.these words
stitch together the awful gash
of us your fated undressing left. 
you might have worn this world like a loose garment,
but the clothed hate to face their nakedness,
though we all know nobody’s got long to stay.


maybe i had to wait for word
you had arrived safely
before reclaiming my voice.
did your parents tell you they’d expected you?
were they anxious for news
from the ticking side of time?
i know you are reminding them of
what it is like to exhale
after a bated breath, and assuring them
they are not forgotten
despite the silence of libations.
they must know it is not easy
without them, you, here.
as concerning little aracelis, we were praying
you could arrange a way to leave  
all that is beautiful there
long enough to guide her to us.


it is some comfort to believe you
hold court with what makes us open
to the truth like lilac
crocuses in the morning sun,
surrounded by all the answers to our questions.
where you are, you can whisper some of them 
to me anytime;  i’ll pass it on. 
it will be our poem.