National Poetry Month Day 11: Donika Kelly





            Rivergate Skating Rink, Nashville, TN


The man in orbit blooms
a heart on his back.

The heart blooms
wings of water, and in me rises,

not mercy, but a sense of order.

I’ve drifted,
loosed from the one who bound me,

a planet with no anchoring star,
and I know this man

is neither god
nor sidereal body,

but neither is he a woman
with an alchemical heart.

His skin, his beard, his full breast,
enrapture me,

draw my gaze
from every other whirling body.

I’ve drifted, and I know
the man in orbit is not a man

in orbit, but one in revolution,
where revolution means “change”

or “a way of moving,”
where muscle changes to water

or moves from a state of gold
to one of lead.


Photograph of Donika Kelly by Ladan Osman.

Donika Kelly is the author of the chapbook Aviarium (500 Places 2017) and the full-length collection Bestiary (Graywolf 2016), winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and long listed for the National Book Award. She is an Assistant Professor at Baruch College, where she teaches creative writing. More from this author →