Field Notes on Leaving
There will be a day sometime in the near future
when this guide will not have to be published.
– The Green Book (1949)
The North Star is irrelevant
miles and miles above my head,
I do not want the constellations
any nearer, I know there are whole cities
all over this country that are so bright
you can’t see the stars,
the sky no wider than the heart is wide.
The night President Obama was elected
we danced in the street of our small university
to My President Is Black.
My first time on my own,
I felt like I had a father.
Every one of us was flying,
a blunt passed around, I got lifted.
My heart to lift, and all the world explore.
If there were stars I did not see them.
We’ve never been through airport security
without being pulled to the side and searched,
to know you can die anywhere
doesn’t feel like flying.
I can’t go to Canada
and leave my mama here alone.
I brought my southern drawl to New York, unchained
myself from my uncle’s grave.
I explained all I could see from where I stood
and here I am. I call my dead to Harlem,
look to the starless, pray they’d come.
If you see me dancing
I’m sending a code, someone
I can’t afford to think like Whitman
that whatever I shall meet on the road I shall love,
and whoever beholds me shall love me.
Doing the Dougie. Trying to find the ocean,
“Field Notes on Leaving” borrows language from Edna St. Vincent Millay, Nina Simone, Walt Whitman, George Moses Horton.