By Bryan Byrdlong, BA’15
I dance with my mother beneath the fake crystal
chandelier. A group of us swaying kompa in circles,
with our mothers, in honor of our mothers, despite
our mothers. We radiate out like the plastic floral
arrangements adorning each table, our endless
fractal orbit, Creole as sonic centerfold. I don’t
understand what infects me, only know it does,
the iridescence of immortal flowers, the kompa band’s
baritone, the blue as the karabela dresses river
down a makeshift runway. We have come to
pay respect to our mothers, our mother tongue
which heals, speaks for itself, is here in our collective
magnetic spin, our slew of aphorisms, our revolutionary
lilt, honed. All our mothers are here with us,
our bodies & so their bodies raised mitochondrial.
& we have gathered to eat bread and chicken penne,
for Tante Raymonde to take my arm & lead me
to dance, for my cousin Michael to chase me,
this too a dance. He catches me, tickles my sides.
I am 8, sideways, a small infinity. My laughter is
in Creole. I laugh like no one is after me.
Bryan Byrdlong is a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing and literature at the University of Southern California. He is a 2021 recipient of the Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, one of the most prestigious awards for young poets in the United States. This poem was first published in the December 2021 issue of Poetry.