Ja'net Danielo | Poetry
I want to write something about birds—Goldfinches
or Blue Jays, flight patterns, how a love of acorns
helped propagate oak trees after the Ice Age. Or, maybe,
how Blue Jays aren’t really blue but brown, the blue—
a reflection of scattering light on the surface of
their feather barbs. And how no one knows why
some stay on the Atlantic coast, pierce snow
with their fierce blue, while others migrate south.
In chemistry, migration means movement, in physics,
diffusion—pouring or spreading abroad. When my mother
flew back to East New York, the architecture
of her childhood was gone, molecules of brick
& stone shaken & stirred, dispersed into air as if
they had never been at all. And her sister—stranded
on the seas of dementia, caught in a riptide of ghosts &
accusations, her lifeboat cobbled from the paste
& paper of imagination.
When I read about blood flow, how it helps
migrating cancer cells flee the bloodstream, seed
tumors elsewhere in the body, I imagine my cousin, a white
chocolate ring, dyed-yellow diamond—the favor
she made for her engagement party & I think of
the space telescope images, Carina Nebula’s Cosmic
Cliffs, how every star born from its red gas-glow is dead.
And it’s been years since my cousin didn’t make it
to the altar, but I return again & again to the ring &
the chocolate, its sweetness, to the light that will
never reach us.
I wanted this to be about birds
or where we go to save ourselves, how I went from
smooth, undimpled breast to pinched skin & scar,
crude outline of myself, so fast I didn’t even feel
the change in seasons. But I can’t stop thinking about diffusion,
how on an MRI, tumors scatter—bright & sharp—
across the black calm. And if to move is to change
one’s position, can I say that, in the end, my cousin’s body
was not yellow & bloat but teeming with stars? That they multiplied
& multiplied, spread their light beyond the flesh & bone
galaxy of her. That every single one pulsed & burned with life.
Ja’net Danielo is the author of the chapbooks This Body I Have Tried to Write (MAYDAY, 2022) and The Song of Our Disappearing (Paper Nautilus, 2021). A recipient of a Courage to Write Grant from the de Groot Foundation, a Professional Artist Fellowship from the Arts Council for Long Beach, and the Telluride Institute’s Fischer Prize, her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Diode, Raleigh Review, Frontier Poetry, and In the Tempered Dark: Contemporary Poets Transcending Elegy (Black Lawrence Press), among other places. Originally from Queens, NY, Ja’net lives in Long Beach, CA. Find her at www.jdanielo.com.two stars in the middle of a black sky by Alexander Andrews