Tuesday, 07 February 2023

American Life in Poetry: Self Portrait with Impending War

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Nowhere in her poem, “Self-Portrait with Impending War,” does Lauren K. Alleyne mention a war, but the rumors of war and the disquiet of the world seem to haunt this “self-portrait” in which the self extends far beyond Alleyne’s personalized self and attempts to achieve a connection to all who must consider the complications of a home that is at once embracing and dangerous.

In the end, Alleyne’s poem is a jeremiad—a warning of what can be lost to the wars that are always impending.

Self Portrait with Impending War
By Lauren K. Alleyne

Home is the hodgepodge house,
the vacant lot beside it, the ailing
mango tree, the stingy coconut trees
with nobody left to climb them anyway.
Perhaps, you think, home could be this
continent with its confused seasons,
the roads that roll out in front of you,
limitless as the night sky. Home be this
small silence you curl into anywhere you go,
the one hovering in your chest beating
its fleshy time. This planet you scar
with too many clothes and plastic bags: home.
And where to run but everywhere?
What to weep for, but what is going,
somehow, to be gone?

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 ©2022 by Lauren K. Alleyne, “Self Portrait with Impending War” from Porter House Review. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 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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