Poetry Sunday: “When rivers river to the edge,”
by Arisa White

When rivers river to the edge

we learn the geometry of our thirst.

Thousand mouths opened to an empty
orchestra conducted by crash and crest.

We settle with stones passed through us.
We are the wounded ones, the daughters

incapable of being normal. Our jokes are filled
with butts, the daughters are taken less brilliantly.

How can we be so foul, with so much folly,
the daughters who cannot contain their tongues?

Hips out, arms shaped so the elbow’s fine, words
ushered by a “Well,” this is how we do it on days

that make a year, qualify an age, we water
our selves with time, sage and unruly—it’s hard

to get just-by when we want truth. We, the daughters,
are fed up to here with burning bodies, honor,

palavers that are all supply and demand, and we can’t
take your look—you looking at us with capitalized eyes.

We are not a surface for your greed. It will go dry.
It will give up. It will die. It will be no more for you.

We, the daughters, did not fall to earth, arms and legs
splayed in multiplication, we came to start something.


From Perfect on Accident (Taproot Editions 2018), reprinted here with permission of the press and available for order here.

Arisa White is a Cave Canem fellow, a Sarah Lawrence College alumna, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the author of the poetry chapbooks Disposition for Shininess, Post Pardon, Black Pearl, Perfect on Accident, and “Fish Walking” & Other Bedtime Stories for My Wife, winner of Daniel Handler’s (aka Lemony Snicket) inaugural Per Diem Poetry Prize. Published by Virtual Artists Collective, her debut full-length collection Hurrah’s Nest was a finalist for the 2013 Wheatley Book Awards and the 82nd California Book Awards and was nominated for a 44th NAACP Image Awards. A Penny Saved, inspired by the true-life story of Polly Mitchell, was published by Willow Books in 2012. Her newest full-length collection, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, was published by Augury Books and nominated for the 29th Lambda Literary Awards. Currently, Arisa is coauthoring, with Laura Atkins a middle-grade biography in verse on midwife and philanthropist Bridget “Biddy” Mason, the second book in the Fighting for Justice series, slated for publication in 2019 by Heyday Books.

Selected by the San Francisco Bay Guardian for the 2010 Hot Pink List, Arisa is a member of the PlayGround writers’ pool and has received fellowships from the inaugural Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College in Maryland, Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Headlands Center for the Arts, Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Prague Summer Program, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2005, 2014 and 2016, her poetry has been published widely and is featured on the recording WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet. A native New Yorker living in Oakland, California, White serves on the board of directors for Nomadic Press. She is a faculty advisor in the low-residency BFA Creative Writing Program at Goddard College and was a visiting scholar at San Francisco State University’s The Poetry Center, where she developed a digital special collection on Black Women Poets.

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