Like a Soft Horn

I saw through the evening 
a purple light. 
The light held a sound. 
I kept squinting at it trying to hear its octaves, 
but all I heard were birds and so 
I tried my wings, straightened 
my back the way one does when attempting at good posture 
and did a little shimmy 
to loosen them, but they wouldn’t budge. 

I could feel the constant pressure
between my shoulder blades. 
It was painful 
to hear the birds so full of flight and song, 
but as I stood there 

I thought about my mother’s hunger
all those years ago 
in college eating the goat’s liver pulled straight 
out of the animal’s still warm body
when none of the other students would touch it, 
not even the men with their pride, and her 
streaking the town parade at sixteen. 

She must have appeared 
to the bystanders 
like a gazelle or some other blinding 
creature. She called this morning to say 
she had a feeling about me, a premonition 
though she didn’t use that word. 


I want many things 
and sometimes it’s hard to hold 
all this desire in one body. 

If I had another body 
that could store my desire 
in the center of itself,
a body that looked like me, but didn’t
have the organs, muscles, and bones 
taking up all the space, perhaps

my body, that is not me, would play 
a series of songs 
made up solely of the sounds of my future desire. 
A mixtape of sorts, 
but without titles or narrative arch.

The sound that would stand out the most 
would be a rustling of leaves
like the rustle squirrels make playing at the base of trees, 
but not exactly. 

There would be more depth to it.
A wateriness. 

Rustling water. Yes. Dry and wet, then 
a chiming somewhere in the distance, not like bell chimes.
More like a soft horn, 
like Coltrane 

but also full of silence. 
A horn chime full of silence. 
And listening to this 
mixtape of my desire that is to come, 
I would think, yes!

This is a true thing. 

And my body that is not me would turn purple, 
a blinding purple.

Jamaica Baldwin’s poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Prairie Schooner, Guernica, World Literature Today, and Hunger Mountain among others. Her first book, Bone Language, will be published by YesYes Books in 2023. She is a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and winner of RHINO Poetry Editor’s Prize. Her work has been supported by Hedgebrook and the Jack Straw Writers Program. Jamaica is currently pursuing her PhD in English at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.