Saturday, 19 June 2021

American Life in Poetry: The Ragged and the Beautiful

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

I have heard so many poets say that they feel like outcasts, until they meet other outcasts and dreamers, people who seem to feel like them, and suddenly they feel affirmed in their difference, and, as it turns out, their place in community.

It is likely what Safiya Sinclair means in her elegant poem, “The Ragged and the Beautiful” published in the always engaging “immigrant and refugee” journal, The Bare Life Review, when she declares being “strange/ and unbelonging” as, being, at the same time, “perfectly” beautiful.

The Ragged and the Beautiful
By Safiya Sinclair

Doubt is a storming bull, crashing through
the blue-wide windows of myself. Here in the heart
of my heart where it never stops raining,

I am an outsider looking in. But in the garden
of my good days, no body is wrong. Here every
flower grows ragged and sideways and always

beautiful. We bloom with the outcasts,
our soon-to-be sunlit, we dreamers. We are strange
and unbelonging. Yes. We are just enough

of ourselves to catch the wind in our feathers,
and fly so perfectly away.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Safiya Sinclair, “The Ragged and The Beautiful” from The Bare Life Review: A Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Literature, (The Bare Life Review, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Safiya Sinclair and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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