Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Ailish Hopper





All This Music in the Body

Police, polite, a good clean
out-of-sight, which they’ll call

suicide. Ten cuffs in a car, ten pair
of eyes, ten national

sighs. Every empire, a pretty
narrow waist

in someone’s speech. Everything old is New
World again, oh just

checking your Be Humble, your Been
to the Mountaintop. All

the Lilies in the Fields. So much
formaldi-hiding beneath

gray-matter skirts: selling,
selling every drive-by

eyeball. & Here I am, alone
in my sell/

by date, flimsy repackaging
of be white. I wander, lonely as a loud

noise, eyed by the crowd, quieted
by a word’s worth of Not all Williams!

Let the officers aim, this time, to miss
the point. Let a new beat, like blind feet

kick open the hard sacs, seeds
germinate, trafficking their wild

sylla-bells… A new you-
niform, felt freedom, fibered

from tenderness. Unbuild. Let these things
we do peel away—thought

to impulse, blood
and nerves—Like a shock of birds, every-



Blue Wall

             For Tyrone West, Freddie Gray, and Korryn Gaines

What you can take off
your body, but you can’t take
off: your body. Your Dress
blue, as a birth cord, placenta-
gorged, as if you’d just slid into
this world. Some robes, uniforms:
what you wear, you are. A conjuring,
their honored hours, noiseless
as a mistrial, a taillight, as a broken
spine. Hand around my daughter’s palm
I see them emerge, elbows out,
hips blanketed by guns. Look up,
the branches spread through families:
uncles, a cousin. Look left, in their smiles,
the sun; look right, the star
that now follows them. Walking the beat
like beads on a string; some peek
out, but won’t peak above
the in-crowd clouds. Any pledge, vow,
a spell, a body ridden now
by One of us. Absolved, able to walk
between raindrops, checkstops. So late,
too late, What–the civilian birds sing–
happened here? And from every
oath-born body, in reply, sure
as the sky: blue



“Incremental Change”

Plants are music. Music is music, too. A bridge is music, and not only because it sways. A bridge has teeth. I like that though—don’t be too gentle with me. The German word for “always,” more like, “eternally.” Got two in my pocket, give away three. A cult, a conundrum, a cul de sac; into faith, and out again. Where everyone says they want to move to, but don’t, because sooner or later, you’ll lose your shirt. As if politics were not laundry. Flour, soda, eggs—what rises. The other end, the part that gets forgotten, soft and pink as an eraser. I walk into a room, I walk out of a room; the mirror catches me. The mirror tells, but who is listening? A strike, a march, a protest. Like a message, with a bouquet

left by the door.


Photograph of Ailish Hopper courtesy of Ailish Hopper.

Ailish Hopper is the author of Dark~Sky Society (New Issues), and Bird in the Head, which was selected by Jean Valentine for the Center for Book Arts chapbook prize. Some places her poems have appeared include APR, Harvard Review Online, Ploughshares, POETRY, and Bill Moyers' Civic Poetry features. She's received support from MacDowell Colony, Maryland State Arts Council, and Yaddo, and her essays and nonfiction have appeared in Boston Review and A Sense of Regard: Poetry and Race. She lives in Baltimore and teaches at Goucher College. More from this author →